I can't lie. Over the last few days, I have had, what you might call, "Cup envy" as the Capitals have partied in Las Vegas, the streets of Washington D.C. and on the "Tonight Show" with the Stanley Cup. Not because they won (my Penguins won the last two before this season), but because they're having the kind of fun our society accepts when a professional sports team wins a championship.
For the Capital players, they are athletes who train year-round, play 82 regular season games and then must play two more months of hockey to win the title. You can't blame them for trading in the protein shakes for beers and champagne after winning it all.
Everyone's spirit animal since Thursday night has been captain Alexander Ovechkin.
For 13 years, Ovechkin has been one of the best players of his era but could lacked something his counterparts, fellow Russian Evegni Malkin and Sidney Crosby had: a Stanley Cup.
From the moment he eagerly ripped the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman and lifted it for the first time, Ovechkin has partied like the 18th Amendment was soon making a comeback.
You're envious when you see Ovechkin among fans at Georgetown doing a keg stand with the Stanley Cup and partying in the fountain with teammate.
When he goes to the Nationals baseball game and randomly lifts the trophy gameplay, not caring about the action on the field, you're envious.
Working with an accent and a high blood-alcohol content, he ends the parade with a fragmented sentence while throwing in an F-bomb that keeps it together. The envy returns when the crowd on the National Mall responds with a huge roar and he once again raises the Stanley Cup with the U.S. Capitol in the background (just out of curiosity: was this crowd bigger than Trump's inauguration crowd?).
Now, Ovechkin will have to come down from 'hockey nirvana" at some point and start acting like a normal, functioning adult again, but like many before him, he has earned the hall pass to act like an idiot and do things, that for the rest of us, could leave us unemployed and with a public drunkenness on our record.
It's been fun to watch Ovechkin the last couple of days. You hate him when he plays against your team, but you would give something up to have the last five days of his life.
Party on, Ovi. Safe to say that Olli Maatta's partying at the Penguins 2017 parade has been outdone.
The long-suffering Washington Capitals finally won a Stanley Cup Thursday night in Las Vegas. In house at T-Mobile Arena was Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee, who watched Alexander Ovechkin, a player he drafted 14 years ago while working the same job in Washington, lift the trophy, exercising playoff demons of the past, ones that cost him his job in 2014.
If anything, McPhee is named general manager of the year after putting together an expansion team that reached the Stanley Cup Final, but glancing over at the opposite bench, many of the players who made an impact in Washington's title run were McPhee selections.
Ovechkin (2004), Nicklas Backstrom (2006), John Carlson and Braden Holtby (2008), Dmitri Orlov (2009), Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010) and Tom Wilson (2012) were names heard throughout the spring.
This is not a slight to current general manager Brian MacLellan, who brought in T.J Oshie and Devante Smith-Pelly, two other big contributors during the Stanley Cup run, but the core was built by McPhee. Like most general managers, he had to take the brunt of the blame for the team's continued lack of postseason success as he and then head coach Adam Oates got pick slips in 2014.
Now, some of you probably read the headline, rolled your eyes and said I'm a millennial who thinks everyone should get a trophy.
Well, I'm not. Giving McPhee a ring would be odd, but it would be a nice, unique gesture. At the very least, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis could send him a thank you note.
Either way, George McPhee should be proud of his past and current work as a National Hockey League general manager.
I will start by getting this off my chest.
Cavaliers-Warriors Part IV has been a dud.
The first one was great, the sequel was fantastic and even though Golden State added a new cast member in Kevin Durant last year, that series was like every third film in a franchise. You sat through the first two, so you want to see what happens.
I didn't want to see Part IV, but others did and now some are regretting it.
It's not over yet, but we know how it will end. Either tonight in Cleveland or Monday in Oakland.
The NBA has dragged us through another spring where it teased us with first round stories like the Pelicans sweeping the Trail Blazers and the Sixers "process" appearing to come to fruition, only to let us down in the next round. The conference finals were actually good, with both series going seven games and thinking for a moment a Cleveland-Golden State championship series could be avoided.
While the NBA continues to lack parity, the three other major sports leagues in North America all had first-timers lifting trophies.
Back in the fall, the Houston Astros, who lost 111 games just four seaons prior, beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games for the franchises first title just months after Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.
For as insufferable as Philadelphia sports fans can be, the Eagles prevented another Patriots Super Bowl championship while capturing their first Lombardi trophy and the first of any kind since 1960.
And just this week, the Washington Capitals, one of the NHL's most snake-bitten teams (I see you Buffalo and Toronto), finally won a Stanley Cup.
It was a run where they dropped their first two games at home in round one to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but won the next four to advance. Let Game 1 of their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins slip through their hands, but in the end, finally beat the team that has tortured them in the playoffs over the last two decades, making their first conference final in 20 years, where they won the first two against the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropped the next three and rallied to win the next two to make the Final, where they dropped the first game, but won the next four to clinch the title.
One of the league's best players, Alexander Ovechkin, finally lifted the Stanley Cup and did it on the road in...Las Vegas.
Oh, yeah! The National Hockey League saw the Vegas Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, win their division and make the Final. Holy parity, Batman!
LeBron James is great, Kevin Durant is great, but we've seen this movie before and I'm fine if it doesn't happen again. Give me the Sixers, Rockets, heck, anybody but Golden State winning it again.
So...who had Winnipeg-Vegas in the Western Conference Finals when the season began? How about when the Stanley Cup Playoffs started? Regardless, this is an intriguing matchup on several levels.
Entering the playoffs back in April, neither the Winnipeg Jets nor the Vegas Golden Knights had won a playoff game.
Before this spring, the Jets had qualified for the playoffs twice in their history (2007 when they were the Thrasher and 2015 in Winnipeg) and were swept in both series. The Jets disposed of Minnesota in five game and dethroned last season's Western Conference champion, the Nashville Predators, in on the road in Game 7 5-1.
The Golden Knights, who in its expansion year continues to exceed expectations, not only won their first-ever playoff game but swept the Los Angeles Kings in the process and then beat the San Jose Sharks, a team that was just in the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago, in six games.
In this Western Conference Final, it features two markets with different climates but both are in uncharted territory.
Winnipeg, which has a metro population of under 800,000 is the NHL's equivalent of Green Bay and the Packers. Canadians live and breath hockey. Winnipeg fans are no different. It's a fanbase that perfected the "whiteout", never saw their team make it further than the second round the first time around and suffered 15 years without an NHL team when the original Jets departed for Arizona. With these Jets (who flew away from Atlanta in 2011), they proved they could win "a" game in the playoffs and win a series, which exorcises those demons that made it through customs when the Thrashers relocated.
Blake Wheeler, a carry-over from the Thrasher years, had 91 points (23 goals, 68 assists) this season for Winnipeg. He may not be a household name like Crosby and Ovechkin are in the United State but he's a rock star in Manitoba.
Patrick Laine, the team's first round pick taken second overall in 2016, led the team in goals (44) this season. The Jets have finally given outsiders something other than the snow and cold to talk about when Winnipeg comes up.
When it comes to Vegas, I have stopped saying "The Golden Knights can't do this!" and "No way the Golden Knights can possibly do that!" ever since their inaugural season began in October.
While past expansion teams struggle in their first year and develop younger players around veterans picked up in the expansion draft, the Golden Knights broke away from tradition. Not only did they post a winning record, but they won their division and cruised through the first round and in round two, beat the Sharks in six games.
The Golden Knights are not a normal expansion team. They are the first in the NHL's salary cap era and had the chance to grab some pretty good veterans in the expansion draft. A three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and others like James Neal, Derek Engelland and William Karlsson.
Karlsson is a 40-plus goal scorer and Jonathon Marchessault joins him in the 70-plus point club. David Perron, another veteran player grabbed by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft, had 50 assists this season.
For the first time since 2009, the Stanley Cup champion will be a team that is not the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015), Kings (2012, 2014) or Bruins (2011).
As someone who screams about the lack of parity in the NBA Playoffs (another Cavs-Warriors Finals is in the works there), we're finally getting it in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it's good parity!
The only team left that has smelled the Stanley Cup Final in the last decade are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost to the Blackhawks in 2015. The other three are in new waters. The Washington Capitals were finally able to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and will try to make the Final for the first time since 1998 and win their first Stanley Cup.
Washington physicality and Tampa's speed should make for an exciting East Final, but the more intriguing of two series has to be Vegas-Winnipeg.
It may not be the best series for TV ratings in the U.S. but the Vegas storyline will keep normal fans watching and those who stroll in at playoff time popping in and out.
Expect all of Canada to get behind Winnipeg. That country hasn't had a summer with the Stanley Cup since 1993.
If the team from the west takes the Stanley Cup this season, it's a huge first for that team, especially Vegas.
Western Conference Finals: Jets in 7
Eastern Conference Finals: Lightning in 6
You always remember that first job you had in radio. Mine was at iHeartMedia in Pittsburgh (back when it was still called Clear Channel). I was hired as a part-time board operator and producer for shows on ESPN Radio Pittsburgh and the man in charge of training me was David "Digby" Reynolds.
Nobody knew him as David. He was just "Digby". I didn't know his last name until I peeked at the company directory sheet a short time after I was hired.
I was hired a few days after Christmas in 2012, and I soon realized that college radio and commercial radio were two different things. I made mistakes on the board and I was still trying to learn NexGen, the automation system iHeart and my current job uses. Digby, who was acting as Assistant Program Director at ESPN Radio Pittsburgh at the time, was in charge of training me and in the first month, helped me where I fell short.
I was shocked and saddened when I saw a tweet Tuesday afternoon that he passed away unexpectedly that morning.
People who work in radio are unique and it required someone as unique as Digby to do all the things he did.
A lot of people knew him as an on-air personality on 105.9 The X, but if you really knew Digby, he was way more than that.
Digby probably worked with every station and sports radio network iHeartMedia Pittsburgh had. If you heard someone trucking down the hallway on the 3rd or 4th floor, it was probably Digby.
Another thing that made Digby unique was his appearance. He looked like a guy who worked for an alternative rock station. Along with his long hair, goatee and glasses, you could tell it was him just based on his raspy voice. The best comparison would be a lower-pitched Scott Ferrell, a Pittsburgh native and current CBS Sports Radio host. Occasionally, you would hear a soft, high-pitched "Hi!" as he briskly walked by you or anyone else in the hallway.
Digby also loved life and never seemed to sweat the small stuff.
I remember one afternoon when he told me about a carbon monoxide scare at his house the night before. He said if his windows weren't opened that night, he might have died. I thought of that after hearing about his passing earlier this week.
He enjoyed going to concerts, playing video games and while most save their vacation days for the summer months, Digby used his to hit the slopes in the winter. Everyone in the building had to plan accordingly when there was snow at Seven Springs.
If Digby liked you, he always had your back: I know he always had mine. He and Gregg Henson, who was ESPN Radio Pittsburgh's program director at the time, would give me extra duties to give me more experience. After some time, I had a talent page on the site, contributed to the social media pages and even did updates in the final few months I was there. Digby also gave me a chance to make extra money (I was hourly) by working home games on the Steelers radio broadcasts.
Having listened to Billy Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, the late Myron Cope and Craig Wolfley call games in the past, it was a great experience. To hear Hillgrove say my name during his list of "thank yous" following the game was a small moment that I cherished. My uncle called my dad because he heard it on a station on the network east of Pittsburgh. When he thanked Digby, it was always "The Amazing Digby".
Whether it was touching up Hillgrove's weekly interview with Mike Tomlin for pregame, grabbing highlights as they happened or making sure to tell booth producer Dan Quindlen we needed Hillgrove to do a legal I.D., it provided me a greater appreciation for what Digby did.
I moved on from iHeartMedia Pittsburgh after I got a full time job in Oklahoma to do news and sports with three stations and do play-by-play. Before I left, Digby said he was happy for me and knew there was something bigger and better awaiting me.
He was right.
A lot of the things I do at my current job came from what Digby taught me. Heck, I find myself teaching coworkers those things I learned from him.
Digby died far too young, but for the time he was on this planet, he lived it to the fullest.
Soon after I left, Digby became the Executive Producer of the Penguins Radio Network following Ray Walker's death (another great man who helped me out and also died too young), and in his first season saw his beloved Penguins win a second-straight Stanley Cup. His involvement with the team got him a spot in the parade and a Stanley Cup ring.
Digby passed away on the morning before Game 3 of the current Penguins-Capitals playoff series. It was sad to think that it would be a hockey night in Pittsburgh without him. I'm sure he would be cursing out Washington's Tom Wilson for breaking Zach Aston-Reese's jaw and concussing him with a high hit. But wherever he is now, I'm sure he likes that Wilson got suspended three games for it.
Thank you for everything, Digby. So many people have shared their own stories and you since Tuesday and I hope you knew how much you were loved by those at iHeartMedia, every listener who tuned in to hear you on The X and anyone else who got to know you like I did.
Wherever you are now, kick back, pour yourself a glass of Jack Daniels and root the Penguins onto a third-straight Stanley Cup.
It's not uncommon to be flipping through channels on a Saturday and seeing lots of movies, especially comedies that have aged well after a decade or two.
Last weekend, Comedy Central was playing a few of them. First, Billy Madison, Sandler's first feature film (when Sandler's style of comedy was liked) and in-between another well-known (and liked) Sandler film, Happy Gilmore, was Tommy Boy.
The 1995 movie, starring Chris Farley and David Spade, is a cult classic. It's one of the few movies I can grab a random quote from, and use in a conversation, usually to make a joke. When that person or persons gets the reference and laughs, it's worth it.
Now, that airing of Tommy Boy was on December 9, which made me think to when Farley died at the age of 33.
Farley's death came on December 18, 1997: 20 years ago today.
The comedian, who once sang "I'm a clown, but I cry" on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, was an incredible comedic and physical talent whose demons led to his accidental overdose in Chicago.
Of all the movies he did in his short life, Tommy Boy remains my favorite and I would imagine many others feel the same way.
I was 12 or 13 when I first saw Tommy Boy. My dad had it on VHS (it was circa 2001 or 2002 so VCR's were still around). But my love of the movie grew as I got a little older.
Every year since the mid 1980s, my dad, his brothers and my grandfather have traveled out to South Bend, Indiana for a Notre Dame football game. My grandfather, who is now 94, owned one of those old Dodge Ram vans that featured the wood paneling, nice roomy seats and a television with the antenna and VCR.
After Tommy Boy came out, the movie joined the catalog of movies they would watch during the long car ride from Pennsylvania.
As I got older, I started going on the trip and a few of my cousins started going, too when the Dodge Ram van was still around. I still remember the first time Tommy Boy was put in the VCR. It felt like a weird right-of-passage.
Also, if you travel from Pittsburgh to South Bend, you pass the exit for Sandusky, Ohio, so everyone got a kick out of that a few hours into the trip.
So why do I like this movie so much and why I am I dwelling on it 20 years to the day its star died far too young?
When I think of Chris Farley, I like to think Tommy Callahan III (along with his "Chris Farley Show' SNL sketch) was the character most like the real Farley: a "people-person" with faults, but would sacrifice everything for others. It's the old cliche of "the lovable loser", but its a character most can relate to, and I want to believe Tommy was a reflection of Farley.
Not to sound sappy, but the family aspect of the movie where Tommy wants to make his dad proud after his death and keep Callahan Auto hits home for me as a guy who comes from a big Irish family on my dad's side.
The old "what if" scenario came to mind when thinking of his death. What if he finally got serious about getting sober for good? (Here's a fan's theory)
We probably see him play Fatty Arbuckle in a biopic, voice Shrek and star in a few of the Sandler movies that have come out in the last 20 years (and maybe make them a little better).
I'm just glad Tommy Boy was a thing and will always be my best memory of Chris Farley.
So here are some of my favorite Tommy Boy moments (in no particular order)
"The Original Brake Pad Pitch"
I learned this whole scene after the watching the movie a few times.
I don't know what's funnier: When he lights the model on fire, or when he goes "here comes the meat wagon" and starts making the alien siren sound. At that point, Richard and the guy they're trying to sell to looked shocked. I would imagine it took a few takes for everyone to keep a straight face.
Honorable Mention: Tommy asking to have parking validated after being kicked out.
I have come upon blown out truck tires while driving, and I always think about how Callahan brake pads would keep me safe.
The only scene with Farley and Rob Lowe together. Also, before they go cow tipping, Tommy said one thing they could do in Sandusky is "go to the livestock auction and cruise the 4-H babes".
I've lived in Oklahoma for the last 16 months, and that joke is funnier now than when I first saw the movie
"Fat Guy in a Little Coat"
A bit originally done by Farley for Spade in their SNL office, this might be the most memorable moment from the film.
The outtake from the blooper is just as funny when Farley cant get the jacket to rip.
"Tommy Want Wingy"
What was the turning point of the film, Richard realizes Tommy is a "people person" type of salesman after convincing a waitress to make chicken wings in a pitch of self-loathing.
"Your sail is limp, like your d***!"
Kids are the worst. Especially in this scene.
We got from Big Tom's funeral and Farley walking alone and sitting on the loading dock at the auto plant, contemplating what will come next.
This scene is a good way to remind you that it's still a comedy. The kids hurl every insult at Tommy until he finally snaps and threatens them, and as kids their age, they don't take him seriously, until Michelle puts the fear of God into them. Definitely unexpected when you watch it the first time.
"Hey! Thanks Dad!"
A nice way for the movie to end. Tommy sitting in his boat, talking to his father having a nice moment. He gets the wind for his sail, and it also happens to hit him right in the back of the head.
Holding back tears, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as the media members huddled around his locker, could not have imagined his time as a Penguin would end the way it did.
None of us did.
The 32 year-old Fleury, who after winning his third Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh, waived his no-movement clause, is most likely heading to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft coming up June 21.
Everyone knew for a while that Pittsburgh's first overall pick in 2003 was not coming back for the 2017-18 season, but as winter turned to spring, nobody saw Fleury playing a major part in the Penguins second-straight Stanley Cup championship.
Matt Murray, still technically a rookie, was starting a majority of games over the veteran who is almost ten years older than him throughout the season. A spectacular performance in last year's playoffs when Fleury was dealing with a concussion raised Murray's status and he soon became the number one goalie this season.
When Murray suffered a torn hamstring in warmups of Game 1 in the Penguins first round series against Columbus, fans saw Fleury back in the net. Nobody knew what to expect.
Fleury played well in the first round, as Pittsburgh eliminated the Blue Jackets in 5 games, but it was the series against the Washington Capitals where Fleury reminded both fans and cynics, that he could still get the job done. Without him, the Capitals find a way to get through the second round and are playing Ottawa in the conference finals.
Mike Sullivan's decision to go back to a now-healthy Murray after the Senators beat Pittsburgh 5-1 in Game 3 was met with criticism, but Fleury, who had been a model teammate during this changing of the guard between the pipes, went with it.
Murray may have been the man in net, but it was Fleury who got them over the biggest obstacle, which was Washington.
In this final week of Fleury as a Penguin, it provides a chance for the goalie from Sorel-Tracey, Quebec and fans to reflect.
I remember attending opening night in 2003 and watching Fleury make his NHL debut. It was October 10, 2003 at Mellon Arena against the Los Angeles Kings. The Penguins were attempting to rebuild a team that they had to deconstruct due to bankruptcy a few years earlier.
The opening night premiere of 29 was not the most ideal. The Kings won in a 3-0 shutout. He appeared in 21 games his rookie year, bouncing back-and-forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre Scranton and was one of five goalies who started at least one game that season, in which the Penguins were 23-47-8-4.
Following the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, Fleury played 29 more games his second year as the Penguins had drafted two players that would provide an offensive boost. Those two being Evgeni Malkin in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in 2005.
Fleury was 17-41-8 in his first two seasons. In 2007, the Penguins, who were building through the draft and were rescued by the new salary cap, saw an incredible turnaround, and that was a reflection of Fleury's play. He went 40-16-9 that season, as Pittsburgh made the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Flash forward to 2009. The year before, the Penguins lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. Now, they had forced Game 7 back in Detroit and were hanging onto a 2-1 lead with 6.5 seconds to go.
A face-off to the left of Fleury was won by the Red Wings. A shot by Dan Cleary finds its way through a bunch of bodies get a piece of Fleury and creates a rebound for captain Niklas Lidstrom.
That diving save by Fleury would keep the game from overtime and seal the first Stanley Cup for Pittsburgh since 1992.
Most fans can tell you where they were when that happened. I was two feet from my television and began cheering the minute I saw Fleury made the save.
For the younger Penguin fans, that is there first memory of a Stanley Cup win. I was alive when they won in 1991 and 1992, but I was just shy of my 2nd and 3rd birthdays.
The first one is always the sweetest. That 2009 championship was, and Flower, along with Max Talbot's two goals, became a Game 7 hero.
The Penguins were seen as a franchise that would win several more Cups as the 2010s began. That didn't happen, as the Penguins suffered several first and second round exits before getting back to the final in 2016. The closest they got was in 2013 when the Bruins swept them in the lockout-shortened season.
Of course, Fleury took his share of criticism from fans looking for an easy scapegoat. Heck, he had his fair share of critics in these final few seasons with the team. If those people haven't learned their lesson after this spring, they never will.
This post could go on for ages, talking about Fleury's time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I will simply say that Pittsburgh was lucky to have had a player like him.
Hockey players are said to be some of most personable players in pro sports. Fleury, along with Crosby, Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang, who make up the remaining players from that first Cup win in 2009, are a fantastic representation of what this team has been for over a decade.
That class of 2009 will get smaller this summer and this photo will hit you in the feels a little bit.
The two guys on the end could be gone by the end of the summer, bringing that quartet down to a trio.
If you haven't yet, take a listen to what Fleury had to say on Thursday.
Now wipe those tears away. We're almost done.
With ten months to go before the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the National Hockey League announced Monday they won't send players to the games next February.
The reactions were as such:
-The NHLPA was mad at the owners
-Players were mad
-Fans are mad at Gary Bettman (when are they not?) and the NHL
-NBC (who has the Olympic TV rights) isn't happy either
It screams of the old "Owners vs. Players" that every league has. The NHL itself has had three lockouts in the last 20 years, one of which resulted in the loss of the entire 2004-05 season.
The NHL's decision to hold players out is unfortunate for players who want to represent their country in what is one of the biggest international tournaments for hockey. Players like Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin expressed their desire to play in future Olympics with the hope of winning a gold medal, something his adversary, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, has two of.
The Olympics in South Korea would have marked 20 years since the NHL sent its players to Nagano, the first of five consecutive winter games.
Initial anger and resentment towards the NHL was expected, but you can't put all the blame on the league for their decision.
The corrupt International Olympic Committee is also to blame.
The IOC has garnered a bad reputation over the years. It's a group that has a ridiculous list of demands for cities to host the games, and most of the time, leaves host cities in economic disarray after the two weeks of Olympic action.
These things made it hard for them to find a proper host for the 2022 Winter Olympics. When ideal candidates like Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden pulled and cancelled their bids, and were left with Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan. They went with Beijing, who held the summer games in 2008 and are not an ideal spot for a winter Olympic.
While they are great at listing their outlandish demands, the IOC could not find common ground for the NHL, who did not appear willing to shut down operations for two weeks and give in to the committee.
When the dust settles, neither side comes out clean. The I.O.C. wreaks of the sewage that wound up in the waters in Rio and the NHL will be viewed as a league that continues to trip over itself.
If the public were Olympic judges, nobody makes the podium in this situation.
The NHL has groundwork with the World Cup of Hockey and amateurs will once again have the chance to play in the Olympics.
2017 Stadium Series Brings Better Weather (and Hopefully a Better Outcome) Than 2011 Winter Classic for Penguins
This week leading up to tonight's Stadium Series game in Pittsburgh, which finally matches the Penguins and Flyers outdoors, the temperature averaged in the high 60s each day. On Friday, the high recorded in Pittsburgh was 78 degrees: not the most ideal weather for outdoor hockey. Temperatures were in the 70s when the Ducks and Kings met outside at Dodger Stadium in 2014, but not a place like Pittsburgh!
Luckily, a cold front has moved in today, and temperatures will be in the mid 30 by puck drop and will drop below freezing by the time the game ends.
Mother nature must be a fan of hockey (or perhaps this rivalry).
The weather and matchup are more ideal this time around in Pittsburgh. For the Penguins sake, misfortune doesn't greet them like it did back in the '11 Classic, when Sidney Crosby was hit by Dave Steckel and it began the long road back from a concussion for the Penguins captain.
I attended that game in 2011. My parents have had season tickets since the 2001-2002 season, and our seats at Heinz Field matched your location at the then-named Consol Energy Center.
My parents have seats in the lower level of the arena, second-to-last row of the section, where the Penguins shoot in the first and third periods.
At Heinz Field, that put our seats in section 128, just to the right of the tunnel where Steelers opponents exit and enter into their locker room.
When you put a hockey rink in the middle of a football field, your vantage point will be altered the lower you sit. It's the one time you prefer to be in the 500 level at Heinz Field.
Regardless, my dad and I were among the 65,000 plus in attendance to watch a game in rainy conditions that matched the Penguins and Capitals in a rivalry game before the two became division rivals two years later with realignment.
I won't make it to Heinz Field this time. I'm over 1,200 miles away and am in the midst of high school basketball playoff games. I've got the DVR ready, and I'll be home later tonight to watch this spectacle between two teams and fans who can't stand the site of each other. I might have to turn the notifications off on my phone and tablet, though.
If you're going: Have fun, stay warm and drink it in if you didn't make it in 2011.
Sadly, it appears that goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury may have less than a month to live...as a
member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Based on the comments made by team General Manager Jim Rutherford, and the upcoming expansion draft with the Vegas Golden Knights, the team might make the decision to deal him before the NHL trade deadline March 1. Fleury has a no-movement clause, which makes him the goaltender the Penguins can hold onto when the Golden Knights start building their team. It would leave Matt Murray, who is ten years younger, at the mercy of the expansion draft.
As a fan, you felt like the writing was on the wall when Fleury unveiled a new mask for the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field, that featured teammates he has had over the last 13-plus years.
There's a part of me that wants to label this beautiful artwork on his mask "The Long Goodbye".
Whether it happens at the deadline or before the expansion draft, Fleury's time with the team seems to be near its end and the farewell seems underway as it continues to be business as usual for everyone in the locker room.
Fleury, 32, was at the mercy of two concussions during the 2015-16 season, and it was the younger, surprisingly hot hand of Murray, 22, who helped the Penguins get through the spring and win the Stanley Cup. Fleury was 35-17-6 in the games the 58 games he played. He appeared in one playoff game after being cleared, stopping 15 of 19 shots on goal in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. After that, Murray started the rest of the way.
When the team realized they had two good goaltenders (a luxury in the game), they knew that eventually their two-goalie system would need to be addressed. No move came last summer, but with the deadline approaching, and the situation the team faces as the NHL welcomes in their 31st franchise, a decision needs to be made.
With the end approaching, you go back to the 2003 NHL Draft. Then-General Manager Craig Patrick had a rag-tag group after salaries were dumped, being marketed as the "X Generation". Fleury went first overall to the Penguins that year, and was one of five goalies to see action that season.
Fleury was between the pipes for the home opener on October 10 when the Penguins welcomed in the Los Angeles Kings.
His first game was a 3-0 loss in front of an optimistic sellout crowd at Mellon Arena. It didn't last long as the Penguins finished at the bottom of the league standings, playing in front of crowds that averaged about 11,000 a game. I was in section F18 for several of those games. Only two other games drew 16,000 plus fans. A January 24 game against the Colorado Avalanche (who had an amazing list of names on the roster that season) and the home regular season finale against the Washington Capitals April 4 (both were losses).
Fleury finished with a 4-14-2-2 record that season (when ties were still in the game) while jumping back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL.
Things got better as Patrick, followed by Ray Shero, began putting the pieces together and found themselves in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 6-year absence.
The shining moment came in 2009 when this new era of Penguins won the franchises third Stanley Cup, in a heart-stopping finish against the Detroit Red Wings in the deciding Game 7, where Fleury made a diving save on Niklas Lidstrom after the Penguins lost a faceoff with 6.5 seconds left in their zone and gave the former Red Wings captain a juicy rebound.
When it comes to numbers, Fleury's 2006-07 (40-16-9) and 2011-12 seasons (42-17-4) have been his two best. Although both ended in first round playoff losses.
It would be easy to get sentimental about what could be the last weeks of Fleury as a Penguin, but this is life in any professional sports league. The Penguins have the best of both worlds with two good goalies on the depth chart, but the future (not rifts or locker room troubles) has finally brought the team to this point.
It's not known what Rutherford will do at the deadline, but there might be a need come March. If another team makes an offer and it involves Fleury, he might pull the trigger.
So maybe fans should take Marc-Andre's approach to the situation: enjoy each day and take a few selfies that will help you remember the good times