Big Lead Sports Bar


Wrapping Up a Rough Weekend

From losing Chuck Tanner to Friday Night at the Fights to the Penguins' bus breaking down in New York, this was not a memorable weekend in the annals of Pittsburgh sports, save for the Pitt win over 'Nova. But we shall fight on. A few thoughts:

1. If I may belatedly acknowledge the passing of Chuck Tanner, let it be with my one personal interaction with him. During my time in college, our baseball team had qualified for the postseason. That wasn't exactly par for the course, as W&J doesn't have what one would call a rich baseball tradition. But somehow, our coaches were able to line up Mr. Tanner to speak at our year-end banquet before we departed for the tournament. Now this had to be at least 13 or 14 years ago, which would put Chuck in his late 60s. But when I tell you that this man had a bunch of kids he never met before so fired up that they were ready to run through a brick wall, you'll have to believe me. I can only imagine what the atmosphere would've been like during the Fam-a-lee heyday, with Tanner leading some of those personalities in the clubhouse. I can see why they were such a tough team.

RIP, Chuck Tanner. You will be missed.

2. I watched the Penguin game on Friday night, and like most of the hockey-viewing public, I was appalled at what I saw. I was embarrassed for the league, the teams, the players, and the sport. That being said, I don't know how the Pens are supposed to react when one of their teammates gets a cheap shot from behind. Ignore it? Not going to happen. Likewise with the attack of their goaltender by a skater. Hockey players aren't going to sit back and watch that happen without reacting. Pittsburgh's involvement in these incidents was unfortunate, but they were too large to turn the other cheek. Now when Kris Letang mentions something along the lines of retribution at the next meeting in April, that's where I have to ask when enough is enough.

The Islanders wanted to get back at the Pens for taking out Rick DiPietro. But the Pens did not intentionally injure DiPietro, and they only did so after DiPietro went after Matt Cooke. Now, the Pens want to avenge Brent Johnson. What it turns into is a game of "he hit me first" like you would see out of a couple eight-year-olds. Everyone's got to get even. However, at some point, the game of hockey becomes an afterthought. That's what happened on Friday night, and I hope it doesn't happen again. 
3. I like that Mario Lemieux spoke out against the NHL, because A. Mario is my all-time favorite athlete, and B. I think the NHL is very poorly-run in general, let alone incidents like Friday's. But I agree with those who've criticized Lemieux for such words when he employs Matt Cooke, whose act has worn thin not only with opponents, but with yours truly. Not only could Cooke permanently injure a player from another team, he could bring unnecessary harm to one of his teammates via the NHL's unwritten rules of retribution. As I asked above, when is enough enough with Cooke?

4. Awesome, awesome win by Pitt on Saturday night, even if it did result in Nasir Robinson getting punched in the face. Villanova is a near-impossible place to win, and to do it without Ashton Gibbs speaks volumes to the depth of Jamie Dixon's team and to Jamie Dixon as a coach. If they can keep things afloat until Gibbs returns, they could have even more momentum heading into the postseason, and this might just be the year the Panthers finally get over the proverbial hump.

5. Speaking of teams dealing with injuries, it's difficult to be too tough on the Pens for their effort in a 5-3 loss at the Rangers on Sunday. But losing a two-goal lead is losing a two-goal lead. It will always hurt, regardless of what names are on the backs of the jerseys. Let's hope the team can put some of their recent woes and drama behind them and re-focus for Colorado on Wednesday. It was a pretty rough week in Penguinville, now that I think about it.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


BurressWithButterflywings said...

Matt Cooke is in no way a saint. He is a dirty player and he plays on the edge. But I have NEVER seen him do anything like Gillies or Martin did on Friday night. I have said this before, what Matt Cooke does is not all that different from Mike Richards and Alex Ovechkin. He just doesn't have anybody to make excuses for him about passion and leadership.

As for the Islanders, I am glad that Don pointed out that they really missed the boat regarding that fact that DiPietro is indeed the man ( and I use that term loosely) who started this whole thing. He clotheslined Cooke and then stood idly by his net with a $h!t-eating grin on his face while his teammates jumped Cooke in the corner. Johnson challenged him and crushed his fragile face with one square punch that took place in the course of a mutual fight. He did not jump him from behind or hit him while he was down.

Gillies and Martin should be charged with assault because what they did was not within the heat of competition. It was premeditated and disgusting and fully intended to injure. Say whatever about Mario employing Matt Cooke, the Red Wings galadly signed Todd Bertuzzi's paycheck........

If Mario can't say anything because Cooke is on the roster, I would like to point out that Matt Cooke didn't go out and sucker punch David Steckel last weekend nor did anybody else in a Pens uniform.

SantoGold said...

Mario's comments may be spot on but it does open him up to being a hypocrite for having Cooke and, to some extent, Goddard on his team. Not to mention the Pens are the most penalized team in the league right now. Gotta be willing to get your own house in order first before pointing out that the street you live on is a shantytown.

The thing I could have done without is Mario's "I may not want to be involved in this league" comment. That makes him sound petty and small, like he's going to hold his breath and turn blue unless he gets his way. He's only one person and threatening exile isn't really to go about reforming things. The league already kicked Gretzky to the curb; they won't blink about doing the same to Lemiuex.

AJ said...

Personally, I think if Lemieux wants to back his words... then on April 8th against the Islanders, his team shouldn't show up. Forfeit. No show. Walk away without warning. Leave the Islanders holding the bill for an arena full of people hoping to see World War 3 and broadcast contracts that would go unfulfilled. That would be the ultimate insult to the league. The Pens will have their playoff spot wrapped up by that point. The Islanders will be so far out of it that it won't effect the anything. It doesn't harm the integrity of the standings, but it will make the NHL look foolish. It'll never happen... but maybe that's the kind of statement that he needs to send.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

I don't buy the Mario may be a 'hypocrite because Cooke's on his roster'. It's an unfortunate reality in the NHL that you need a goon or two. Mario was probably never pleased about it, but with the way all the other teams are setting their rosters, you need some protection for your young stars. I don't know what else to compare it to... but if we didn't have Cooke there would be a lot more small cheapshots on our players. What happened friday night was not hockey. Retaliating because your player took a cheap shot and agreed to get punched in the face in the aftermath is amazingly flawed logic. The NHL needs to step in with ridiculous penalties if there is further 'retaliation'. Really, could it be any worse than friday? If things escalate from that game, someone is going to have a life-changing injury.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@AJ - that would be sweet!

Koz said...

I'm with SantoGold. Loved the Mario statement, but the last line brought a little bit of an eye roll.

Borsk said...

If the league doesn't want people like Matt Cooke and Eric Godard skating around, then they have to drop this "self-policing" mentality.

The Penguins lead the league in fights because they are protecting their stars and the league will not.

That being said, there are no teams void of an enforcer. There are no teams that don't have at least one player in their history that rides the line.

If Talbot or Tangardi were paralyzed like Steve Moore, what are we talking about today? Matt Cooke's hit on Savard can be seen 20x over in a Scott Stevens highlight tape.

Borsk said...

Remember last season when Steve Downie figure-four leg locked Sidney Crosby? Probably not, but if Cooke pulled that on Steven Stamkos, the hockey world would explode.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

@Eric, I remember that well. And Downie is a guy with a questionable past as well.

Everyone loves them some anti-Pittsburgh hate, they can't seem to get enough of it.

potus said...

I must say that the first thing that jumps out at me when reading Mario's comments was the hypocracy surrounding Cooke. Just take a gander at a "Matt Cooke" search of YouTube. This guy is no enforcer. He is a dirty cheap shot artist plain and simple. For those that try to hide him under the guard of enforcer here are some stats from Hockyfights,com:

Godard-102 fights since 2002
Rupp-67 fights since 2002
Cooke- 22 fights since 1998

For comparison, Talbot has been in 18 fights since 2005. The only time Cooke fights is when the enforcer on another team calls him out for one of his many dirty shots.

There is not much Mario can do. If he "fires" Cooke (aka releases him) then another team will just pick him up and it will be no time before he is gunning for Crosby or Malkin. The league needs some way of curbing these worthless players (not just Cooke but Gillies, Martin, et al)with half-season and season long suspensions followed by bans.

And I love the idea of the Pens pulling a no show for the final game with the Islanders. Never happen, but talk about taking a stand.

Unknown said...

I agree wtih AJ. Although beyond unlikely, I would be in favor.

okel dokel said...

I agree with Burress and Home Run on this one.

Cooke needs to be more disciplined and get his game away from the dirty stuff. He is pretty good for the Pens and he keeps the other team aware there could be repercussions if they fuck with Sid. It is not about being an enforcer it is knowing there is a price to pay.

Mario is not a hypocrite for employing Cooke either. Joe Micheletti of the MSG network offered this little nugget when he heard Mario's statement, "This from the guy who employs Matt Cooke." Hey douchebag your beloved Rangers employ Sean Avery. No NHL club can use that line of logic because they all employ both enforcers and guys that cause you to look over your shoulder.

Interesting comments in the Agree or Disagree video on the right side of the page - Funny how Konopoka is the only one who disagrees with Mario.