Thank You Nicklas Lidstrom

As a 24 year old, I often think that I haven’t been around to see many of the players that dominated their sports because I feel that the true legends played and retired before I was even born.

Greats like Babe Ruth, Walter Payton, Wilt Chamberlain and Bobby Orr come to mind.

Even players who did play during my life often get put into this category since I was too young to really remember them. These are guys like Larry Bird, Joe Montana and Mike Schmidt.

And I’ll admit, there are also players like Wayne Gretzky who played well into my life that I don’t really remember because I took them for granted at the time and didn’t realize their importance to the world of sports. I really regret these instances because a player like Gretzky will probably never come along in my life time.

But I realize I can use these regrets to remind me to appreciate the greats of sports that are still playing.

That brings me to Nicklas Lidstrom.

The Detroit Red Wings announced today that there will be a scheduled a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m., which will be attended by Lidstrom and general manager Ken Holland. It’s reasonable to assume that Lidstrom may announce his retirement from hockey.

Without a doubt Lidstrom is and will be one of the best players to ever lace up skates. The 42-year-old captain has compiled quite a list of achievements and statistics in his 20-year career. He has won four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy and was an All-Star 11 times.

The Swedish defenseman was also the first European-born NHL captain to win a Stanley Cup, which earned him a membership in the Triple Gold Club – a group of 25 players who have won an Olympic Games gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup.

Lidstrom was one of the smartest defenseman in the history of the NHL. His ability to read plays in front of him and always be in ideal position made him impossible to deal with for opposing teams. He could score, distribute the puck, kill penalties and work the power play.

He wouldn’t overwhelm you with his physical game, but he didn’t need to. He could make you turn the puck over by being in perfect position.

And when Lidstrom was on the ice, chances were a lot better that the Wings would score a goal instead of their opposition. He ranks 8th all-time in career plus/minus as a plus-450. He leads all active players in this category, as well as games played.

I could go on and on.

Now I’ll admit that I still probably didn’t watch Lidstrom play as much as I should have. I grew up a Penguins fan and my broad interest in all NHL teams and players didn’t develop until around the 2000s. For the majority of my life, I was busy watching Lemieux, Jagr and then Crosby and Malkin.

But there is one memory of Lidstrom that I will never forget. He was part of the greatest sports memory in my life to date. It was June 12, 2009. Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals — Penguins versus Redwings.

Neither the Pens nor the Wings had lost a game at home in the series. Pittsburgh had the momentum going into Game 7, coming off of a Game 6 home victory, but the Red Wings lost only one game at home during the entire playoffs — and it came in triple overtime.

Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead in the final minutes of the third, but Detroit surged and put immense pressure on the Pens. With only seconds left, Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg blasted a shot from the right circle on Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck deflected off of Fleury’s pads, sending it to the far left side of the ice. Lidstrom was there to receive the rebound (in perfect position as always) with the entire left side of the net gaping in front of him. He blasted a shot with two seconds remaining, only to have Fleury dive across to stop it and end the series.

Never have I transitioned from such a feeling of impending doom to pure elation so quickly. I was sure Lidstrom would bury the shot because, well, he was Nick Lidstrom. When my team was able to stop him to secure a Stanley Cup victory, it only further solidified the fact that the Penguins were the best in hockey. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a moment like that again.

So thank you Nicklas Lidstrom for coming up short just that one time. I’ll never forget your legendary status and how it made me feel that day.

If you retire tomorrow, it will be a retirement well deserved.

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Kings and Devils: Why Hockey is Great

It’s been four days since the last NHL game was played and I’m already going through hockey withdrawal. But that’s nothing compared to the emptiness I’ll be feeling once the 2012 finals are over.

It’s been a terrific playoffs to watch so far, some say the best in years. Part of that reasoning is based on the upsets. No teams seeded better than 6th made it to the final and very rarely do you see something like that happen in any of the other major North American sports.

It’s pretty incredible to look at the preseason odds Vegas gave for the entire NHL last fall. The favorites to reach the finals were the Vancouver Canucks (9/2) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (5/1) . Each team made the playoffs but were unable to escape the first round. Vancouver won only one game and Pittsburgh managed to win only two. A Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver Cup final looked great on paper, but the hockey gods thought otherwise.

So where did the odds makers slot the finals combatants — the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils — heading into the 2011-2012 season?

Los Angeles actually got a pretty good ranking as they were awarded the 11th best odds to win the Cup at 25/1. New Jersey was the real surprise, since Vegas gave them a 250/1 shot at winning it all.

250/1! The only two teams given worse odds were the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders. That’s why the Devils are the perfect example of the claim that “all you have to do is make the playoffs and then all bets are off.”

And let’s forget for a minute that Los Angeles was given a decent shot at the beginning of the year. For the majority of the season, they looked like a floundering team that didn’t stand much of a chance at even making the postseason. Goalie Jonathan Quick seemed to be one of the only stand out players for the Kings and even though you need great goaltending to contend in the NHL, you also need to score goals.

Los Angeles couldn’t score goals.

The Kings finished 29th in scoring in the NHL at the end of the regular season, netting an average of 2.29 goals per game. Only the Minnesota Wild scored fewer, ending with an average of 2.02 goals per game.

But in the final 20 games of the regular season, the Kings scored 65 goals. In that span, their goals per game average was 3.25. It was a team that turned it on at the right time and got red-hot when it really mattered. And even with that performance, they managed to barely slip into the postseason as an 8 seed, making their path to the Cup as difficult as it gets. Hypothetically, there was a chance that the Kings would need to beat the 1,2 and 3 seeds to make it to the final.

And that’s exactly what happened, further solidifying my claim that unpredictability is the hallmark of the NHL playoffs.

But even as entertaining and unpredictable as they have been so far, it’s very possible that the NHL saved the best for last.

Some pundits believe that the Kings will roll through this final series. After all, no other team even came close to stopping them — they’ve lost two games since April 11. Quick has been, without a doubt, the best goalie in these playoffs (and I believe the regular season, as well) and it seems that the only way to get pucks behind him is to pray, shoot and pray again.

But I don’t think the Devils are going to be easily stamped out. They’ve had to fight much harder than the Kings and I believe that fight has built up an even bigger level of confidence than in the LA locker room. New Jersey has proven they can win a long series while Los Angeles never had a chance to do so. Devils veteran goalie Marty Broduer looks like he’s 22 again and despite having already played 18 playoff games, he doesn’t seem the least bit tired or worn down. Quick obviously has the athletic edge, but a crafty old former Cup winner like Broduer can add an element to a team that youth and athleticism cannot.

And toward the end of the Kings last series, they seemed to sputter a bit more than in the beginning. Maybe they’re too comfortable. Maybe they’ve been coasting. Regardless of what it is, this is the round where the Kings’ easy path ends.

But that doesn’t mean I’m picking New Jersey to win.

I think that the Kings have the edge in goal-scoring talent and puck stopping talent. All they need to do is prove it four more times, which they’re pretty used to doing by now.

I’m a combined 6-10 with my picks through the first three rounds of the playoffs, so I can’t hit .500 (which I feel like is the bare minimum of respectability). But if I can finish 7-10 with a Cup final win, I think I’ll be satisfied.

My pick: Los Angeles Kings in 7.

NHL Head Shots Should Garner Longer Suspensions

Brendan Shanahan has been a little too busy this post season.

But unfortunately, he doesn’t have a choice.

Yesterday, the NHL’s senior vice president of the department of player safety handed down a one-game suspension to New York Rangers defenseman Brandon Prust for elbowing New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the head on Saturday.

It was the 12th suspension Shanahan has doled out this postseason.

Now 12 suspensions in  77 total games this playoffs might not seem like many, but last year there were only four the entire postseason.

This trend raises a few different questions. Are players committing more suspendable hits than before? Is Shanahan just being more nit-picky? Maybe a little bit of both?

I don’t know for sure, but I believe that players are playing the same way they always have. But after the rash of concussions last season, the NHL is stiffening up on their tolerance levels of violent and dangerous hits.

Seemingly.

The problem is, even though Shanahan is handing out suspensions like arenas hand out rally towels, players aren’t changing the way they play the game. Of the 12 suspension this postseason, eight of them featured legitimate head shots. I know the intensity is ramped up in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean reckless behavior should be ramped up as well.

The change to Rule 48 this offseason was supposed to eliminate head shots from the game, or at least decrease the number of them. But that hasn’t happened.Players are still consistently going out and hitting each other in dangerous manners.

It seems like the two most common dangerous hits players are still executing are hits to the head and boarding (which often result in head injuries). Every time I see a guy hit in the head or hit from behind into the boards, I wonder if any messages Shanahan are sending are getting through.

One problem might be with the messages themselves.

Out of the 12 suspensions given out this season, seven of them were for only one game. Of those seven incidents, four involved head shots.

The NHL needs to send a clear message that hits to the head won’t be tolerated. Ever. Suspending players for one game isn’t enough. The supplemental discipline needs to be far more severe if Shanahan wants to really get the players’ attention.

The latest was the Prust hit I previously mentioned. Here are the other three.

Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux delivers a hit to the head of Devils forward Dainas Zubrus on May 6.

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom crosschecks Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverly on April 16.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal hits Philadelphia Flyers forwards Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux on April 15.

There were also two hits this postseason that were definite head shots that resulted in no suspension.

An elbow from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Scott Nichol on April 14.

And probably the worst non-suspension incident this season involving Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber and Detroit Redwings forward Henrik Zetterberg on April 11.

Weber was fined $2,500 for his actions, but was given no supplemental discipline.

It should have been easy to address Weber’s actions, so I don’t know what was more shocking; the fact that Weber slammed Zetterberg’s head into the glass repeatedly or the fact that Shanahan didn’t suspend Weber for a single game.

And when looking at Burns’ elbow, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between his and the shot delivered by Prust. Both were obvious elbows to the head that didn’t result in injury (and Burns even has a prior history of supplemental discipline). So why did Prust’s hit result in suspension while Burns’ did not?

Shanahan has to be more consistent with his rulings, especially when dealing with head shots.

In addition to the one-game suspensions (and incidents where no suspensions were given) there has been one head shot that resulted in a two-game suspension (Vancouver Canuck Byron Bitz boarding Los Angeles King Kyle Clifford on April 11), two head shots resulting in three-game suspensions (New York Ranger Carl Hagelin elbowing Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson on April 14 and Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Shaw delivering a blow to the head of Phoenix Coyote goaltender Mike Smith on April 14) and one that garnered a 25-game suspension. The obvious outlier is the 25-game suspension to Phoenix Coyote Raffi Torres, stemming from a hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.

Shanahan makes his rulings by using three basic criteria: how the hit happened, if a player was injured and if the offending player is a repeat offender. Torres received such drastic supplemental discipline because he violated three different NHL rules during his hit (interference, charging and an illegal check to the head), Hossa suffered a severe injury and Torres has been previously suspended or fined five previous times for similar incidents.

I agreed with the 25-game suspension, but again, the inconsistency of Shanahan’s ruling is what upsets me. When Haglin elbowed Alfredsson in the head, Alfredsson also suffered a head injury. But Haglin received only a three-game suspension.

And yes, I know that Haglin didn’t have any prior history of similar offenses, but when it comes down to it, it should be ruled in a similar manner because it was a head shot that resulted in injury. That’s the only way players will start to adapt and stay away from such dangerous hits, whether they are throwing an elbow like Hagelin or leaving their feet to target the head like Torres.

I know Shanahan wants to base all of his rulings on the details of each individual incident because each hit is different. But the bottom line should be an automatic suspension for a hit to the head, say for 10 games. Then after the base 10, Shanahan can look at the specific details and add additional games, setting precedents for future incidents. Players would definitely think twice about getting their elbows or shoulders up high if there’s a chance they could miss the rest of a playoff series.

I know it’s a drastic solution, but right now there’s too much at risk when it comes to head injuries. More research needs to be done on how concussions affect the brain long term, but it’s starting to look pretty clear in both ex-NHL players and ex-NFL players that head shots can ruin lives. And until better equipment can be developed to protect these players, the actions of the players themselves must be the solution.

Develop consistency in the disciplinary action and make it harsh. The players may not like it, but it’ll protect them in the long run and that’s what the NHL should be concerned about above all else.

John Tortorella Needs to Grow Up

Every time I see a coach giving a nasty post-game press conference, it always reminds me of covering golf for the Daily Collegian student newspaper at Penn State.

Greg Nye was the head men’s golf coach at the time and still is. He was a fantastic golfer during his days at the College of Wooster (Ohio) – he earned All-America honors all four years he played there – and has been well-respected as a coach for the Nittany Lions throughout his tenure there.

But as good as he was on the golf course, both instructing and playing, he was well known to many of us in the sports staff at the Collegian as being less than media friendly on more than one occasion.

I covered Penn State men’s golf during four separate semesters while in college, so I got to know Coach Nye pretty well. He wasn’t and isn’t a bad guy. Most of the time, he was more than willing to answer all of my questions and let his players talk openly to me. While the new team clubhouse and driving range was being built, he personally walked me through the construction site and gave me a highly-detailed tour of the place. And he did it with a beaming smile on his face. Sometimes he would tell me stories about his family. He could be very friendly and easy-going.

Some sunny days that I didn’t have an article due, I would walk up to the golf course while Nye’s team was practicing and I wouldn’t ask him a single question about golf or his team. We would just shoot the breeze and talk about his favorite baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. These were the days that fewer Collegian sports writers knew about. I suppose since I had covered the golf team so much, Nye ended up being more comfortable around me at times, or maybe I’m just delusional.

But there were also the days that Coach Nye wasn’t in the best of moods. These were the days that he asked me not to come up to the golf course. There were times where he would give me one-word answers over the phone after his team had placed poorly at a tournament. There were also times that I suspected he instructed his players not to answer their phones or give me comments following a tough loss, but that’s purely speculation.

He could make my job tough and when that happened, I resented him for it. But I also knew that there were coaches at Penn State that were even worse with the media. There were plenty of occasions when one of my fellow reporters would enter the office with a frazzled look on their face, followed by a story of “what just happened” between themselves and a coach.

It happens at every level of sports that reporters cover. And if you ask any sports reporter, I promise you they’ll have a story about a time where a coach was impossible to question after a loss and was just downright rude. Those times stick with a reporter because they made our jobs harder and it made us feel, well, crappy.

That’s why I cringe when New York Rangers coach John Tortorella gives a post-loss press conference. It’s awkward to watch on television, so I can’t imagine how it feels to be in the room with him. He looks like he’s about to murder someone for asking him anything about the game. He gives one-word answers and refuses to say, well, anything. He’s rude and he acts like a pouting child.

What makes his behavior worse is that he can be very articulate, insightful and outspoken when he wants to be. There have been plenty of times when Torts — as he’s affectionately referred to by some — is great with the media and he won’t shy away from a joke or two. He can be real gold for a reporter when it comes to the kind of quotes and insight he can offer up. Unfortunately, it seems that he is only helpful to reporters when his team isn’t playing poorly.

Here’s an example of the fun John Tortorella.

It’s obvious he’s a passionate person and a great coach (he’s up for the Jack Adams coach of the year award), but he’s tight-lipped and rude when it comes to the poor performances of his own team. Whether he understands it or not, answering questions from the media is part of his job, regardless if his team was shut out or it won by 10. He has a professional responsibility to sit with reporters, even just briefly, and answer their questions.

I understand his job isn’t easy because of the pressures of the New York market and it can be frustrating answering question after question following a loss.

And I could also understand his behavior if reporters were asking him extremely invasive and insulting questions, but they aren’t. They’re asking him simple questions about what happened during the game and he responds as if he caught them going through his medicine cabinet.

This is the most recent example of Tortorella’s infantile behavior after last night’s loss in Game 2 to the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

And last night was not the first time he’s acted like this. The following videos are his last three post-loss press conferences.

 

Final- Capitals 3, Rangers 2 (4/30/21)

 

Final- Capitals 3, Rangers 2 (5/5/12)

 

Final- Capitals 2, Rangers 1 (5/9/12)

 

His behavior makes me want to root against his team, even though I picked it to win this series. But I can’t stand his attitude toward the press post-loss, so I suppose I’m between a rock and a hard place.

I can only hope that win or lose, Torts realizes the press has a job to do, just like he does. He should know as well as the reporters that when your job doesn’t go well, life is crappy. Acting like a child won’t help the Rangers play better John so grow up, take the podium and be a man.

Your players oblige the media after every loss. You should too.

Pirates’ Woes At Plate Continue, Raise Questions

As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, it’s pretty frustrating watching a team that day-in and day-out, has tremendous pitching with little to no run support. The Buccos have the second best team ERA in the majors (3.15) and have allowed only 103 earned runs so far. They have allowed only 119 runs this season, which is third in all of baseball. The Pirates pitching staff is also ranked ninth in all of baseball when it opponents’ batting average; the opposition has hit.240 against the Pirates. The pitching staff didn’t allow more than five runs until the 19th game of the season and has allowed more than five runs only five times this season (and three of those games were against the St. Louis Cardinals, who have scored more runs than any team in baseball this season). Even though pitching numbers have gone up and batting numbers have gone down in the post-steroid era, these are still the kind of pitching stats that should warrant a postseason appearance.

Unfortunately, the game of baseball is more than just what happens on the mound.

The Pirates are incredibility inept at scoring runs. They rank dead last in the majors in runs scored (97) and they aren’t even close to the 29th ranked Padres who have scored 12 more. Statistically, the Pirates would need four more games to make up those 12 runs since they average about three runs per game. That said, it generally takes hits to score runs and that’s the primary reason why the Buccos can’t get men from the batter’s box to home plate. Once again, the Pirates are ranked 30th in hits, accumulating only 243 this season. Collectively, Pittsburgh is batting .222 which is 28 points less than the league average of .250. The Pirates also have the worst on-base percentage in the majors and have hit only 24 home runs.

There are only three Pirates batting .250 or better and there are six Buccos that are hitting below the Mendoza line. The two most notable underachievers are Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas. Both are hitting a measly .162 and have combined for eight RBIs and three home runs. Barmes and Barajas were the two biggest off-season acquisitions and are getting paid $5 million and $4 million, respectively. Barmes is the HIGHEST paid position player and Barmes is the SECOND HIGHEST paid position player on the Pirates roster. Although Barajas has been hitting better lately, neither his nor Barmes’ numbers are acceptable. Their numbers wouldn’t be worth any amount you paid them right now.

So if the Pirates are serious about achieving a winning season for the first time in 19 years, they’ll need to upgrade offensively. A postseason berth is probably out of the question right now, so the Buccos need to concentrate on one step at a time.

Here are the options they have to establish some better numbers at the plate. They can stay the course and make no changes, hoping that their team will improve at the plate. This is probably the worst option the Pirates could choose. I sincerely doubt there will be any substantial improvements from the guys they have. Although they are only about one-fifth of the way through the season, the chances aren’t good that the team will make a huge turn around at the plate any time soon.

The next option for the Pirates could be calling up talent from the minor leagues. This can be a crap shoot, especially within the Pirates organization. Starling Marte is the best option within the organization, but he has been nursing a hand injury and if the Buccos were to call him up, they would have to be sure that the injury is completely healed so Marte would be in the position to play at 100 percent. Right now, Marte is only seven days removed from suffering the injury and rushing him back would probably do more to hurt his future than help the current Major League team. And even before the injury, Marte hasn’t been unstoppable at the plate this year. His athleticism lends the most to the support of bringing him up from AAA Indianpolis but he is hitting .268 this season compared to .332 last year. It’s still a solid average and he still has great potential, but it seems like he’ll need some more time in the minors to prove he can be a starter for the Pirates any time soon. So right now, a call up is still probably out of the question.

One more option would be acquiring someone from another team. This is the biggest risk/reward the Pirates could go with. In order to get someone with a solid value at the plate, Pittsburgh would have to give up someone with significant value as well. And for the Pirates, that would mean someone from the pitching staff. I’m particularly conflicted about this option because the Pirates hurlers have been the one area that doesn’t need to improve whatsoever. But would losing one guy from the pitching staff have a huge effect on the rotation as a whole? Maybe, maybe not. The Pirates might actually be strong enough on the hill to lose a piece and still maintain their dominance, but that is a risk with some big implications. What if the hitting didn’t improve and their rotation starts to suffer as well? That could set Pittsburgh back substantially.

Recently, Mark Madden (a popular Pittsburgh radio talk show host) suggested the Pirates should trade closer Joel Hanrahan to acquire a big stick to improve the Pirates’ numbers at the plate. This might not be a bad idea by the numbers. As solid as Hanrahan his, he doesn’t get to play enough to be tremendously useful. The Pirates have had only 12 save opportunities this season, which ranks 23rd in the Majors. If the Pirates can’t score enough runs to get a lead heading into the ninth, what’s the point of needing such a solid closer? That question could end up being a catch-22. What if the Pirates trade Hanrahan, end up producing enough runs to hold a lead into the ninth, but can’t hold the opposition enough to get the win? Since Hanrahan has been on the bereavement list due to the death of his grandmother, his fill-in Juan Cruz has gone 3-for-3 in his save opportunities. But he only has six saves in his 12-year career. He’s done well recently as a closer, but we’ll need to see a bigger sample size before assuming he can take on any kind of permanent closer role.

I’m not saying that moving Hanrahan would be the answer. He hasn’t been overly impressive this year, so the return you could get for him might not be as big as the Pirates would want or need to drastically alter their run production. But one thing is clear: The Pirates can’t waste any more time. They need to pull the trigger on some kind of change, any kind of change really. Because even though the Pirates do have a handful of loyal fans, everyone has their breaking point. Nineteen years is too long to go without a winning season and if the Pirates ever want to start garnering respect again, something must be done.

Penguins Unexpected Playoff Exit Only Adds Drama

The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated in six games by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

I know, it still sounds awful and I’m still distraught about it.

I’ve been trying to find the positivity in a losing series in which the Pens gave up 11 power play goals and three shorties and Marc-Andre Fleury gave up 26 goals with a 4.63 goals against average and a .834 save percentage.

I found that, if nothing else, the Penguins’ hatred of the Flyers grew in those six games and so did mine. It may seem like a small positive – if a positive at all – but the intensity that rivalries inject into sports adds about as much drama as you can dream up.

That’s why we watch sports, after all. The drama of every shot, every hit and every swing of a bat, stick, racket or club can keep fans on the edge of their seats because of what is at stake. It’s supremely entertaining because sports is the ultimate reality show. You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, the odds are pretty good that you can guess what may come next, but there is no sure thing in sports, as in life.

The Penguins’ postseason was a great example of that unpredictability. They went into the playoffs as the odds-on favorite to bring home the Stanley Cup. Sports Illustrated featured a cover line that read “Who will stop the Penguins?” on the NHL playoffs preview issue (pictured right).

Sidney Crosby was healthy again, Evgeni Malkin had won a scoring title and Marc-Andre Fleury was playing the way he did when he won the Cup in 2009. Pittsburgh Tribune Review Pens beat writer Josh Yohe wrote a blog entitled “10 Reasons Penguins Can Win Stanley Cup” even before the Penguins really turned it on with Crosby’s return. But once the regular season ended, it all collapsed at the hands of the Penguins most hated rival.

This is a theme not uncommon to sports.

If you’re a Yankees fan, it was reasonable to guess that after Enter Sandman boomed from the loudspeakers, Mariano Rivera was going to jog out of the bullpen and sit down the next three batters to win a ball game.

Then without warning, Rivera slipped on the warning track while shagging fly balls and tore his ACL, leaving his career in jeopardy.

If you were a fan of the “old” Tiger Woods – which coincidentally was the young Tiger Woods – you could be almost certain that he was going to win a tournament if he went into the final day of a tournament at the top of the leader board.

But then Tiger got into a car accident, some strange events unfolded and now he hasn’t won a major or much else since.

It’s the drama of not knowing that drives a fan. It’s all about hope. It’s that hope for “the feeling” you get when your team wins at the risk of getting “that other feeling” when your team loses. I hoped the Pens would oust the Flyers from the playoffs. It didn’t happen. I hope the Steelers can make a decent run at a Super Bowl this year, but maybe they won’t. I’m willing to put in all the enthusiasm I can to root for my teams even though I’m risking major disappointment. I’ve bought into the risk vs. reward just like most fans out there.

So even though the Penguins lost to the Flyers, it only fueled my desire to see the black and gold take the ice next season and defeat the orange and black and hopefully the Penguins share my sentiments. I’ve accepted defeat and disappointment this season because I know a Cup might come next season in dramatic fashion. Flyers in 6 wasn’t the end of the world, it was just part of the evolution of the rivalry. Maybe Pittsburgh will face Philadelphia in the postseason next year and the rivalry will be even more intense. That’s what I’m hoping at least, because in sports, you never know and that’s what makes it great.

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