The New York Rangers are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since their magical 1994 title that ended a 54 year drought.
The run has been miraculous, especially when the Rangers, who were amongst team like the Bruins and Penguins, were not considered a favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference as champions. It looked that way...until May 8th.
The New York Rangers were down 3-1 in their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. One day before they played a win or go home Game 5 in Pittsburgh, Martin St. Louis' mother, France, died of a heart attack at the age of 63.
St. Louis was in the lineup for Game 5 as the Rangers dominated Game 5, beating the Penguins 5-1 and forcing a Game 6 on Mother's Day back at Madison Square Garden.
That Sunday, it was an inspiring moment as St. Louis scored the first goal early in the first period of another elimination game that New York won to force a Game 7 back in Pittsburgh. The Rangers would finish off the comeback with a 2-1 Game 7 win and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
Martin St. Louis has 4 goals and 3 assists since that game on Mother's Day against the Penguins. While it has inspired him, it has brought inspiration to the rest of the blue shirts.
In times when a member of the squad experiences a personal loss or tragedy, there seems to be a natural reaction to rally around that individual, especially when in the case of St. Louis, that person is playing during one of the troubling times of their life.
Whether or not you agree, the death of St. Louis' mother did provide the Rangers with some motivation. Especially when he continued to play days after her passing, perhaps inspiring his teammates to get behind him in his time of mourning and play in honor of his mother.
There are other reasons why the Rangers turned their playoff run around. The play of veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, as well as a strong effort from everyone on the squad helped them reach the Final, but we have seen story much like St. Louis' before.
Of course, this story of inspiration needs to come with a disclaimer, especially since this one ended in "catfishing."
The 2012 Notre Dame Football team was inspired by by Manti Te'o and the team playing in honor of his girlfriend (who we later found out was fake) that passed away early on in the season. Te'o stayed with the team and much like Mother's Day in Manhattan, Notre Dame's home game against Michigan saw Te'o have one of the best games of his college career, picking Denard Robinson twice on the way to a win and undefeated season.
Of course, many felt deceived by the Manti Te'o's girlfriend being fake and him being "catfished" by a man, but it's an example of how personal tragedy can bring people together and provide inspiration and something to play for.
In this case, we do know that St. Louis' mother actually did pass away, but much like when Irish players heard about Te'o's girlfriend (who at the time everyone thought was real), it made them feel like they were playing for something more than themselves.
So while it sounds like something you read in a Hollywood screenplay, tragedy and adversity does have an effect on people, especially sports teams.
It provided a spark that the New York Rangers needed, now they'll try to bring the Stanley Cup back to Manhattan for the first time in two decades.
-On a side note of overcoming personal tragedy, the Rangers' Dominic Moore, who scored the game-winner in Game 6 against the Canadiens, lost his wife, Katie, to a rare case of liver cancer in January 2013.
Moore, who has played for nine different NHL teams, and is in his second tenure with the Rangers, sat out the shortened 2012-2013 season following his wife's death.
-His story was told by ESPN's E:60 earlier this spring.
Once upon a time, in a far away fraternity house in Shippensburg, a Penguin fan, who was thinking dynasty after their 2009 Stanley Cup win, made "Repeat2010" his username for his ESPN.com account.
In the end, it was a bad idea and makes NO sense in 2014.
24, going on 25 year-old me is embarrassed for 20 year-old me
For a franchise that spent the most of its first four decades dealing with a carousel of owners, the threat of reloaction and no stability, seemed to have it all figured out around 2007.
The Lemiuex-Burkle ownership, a new arena deal and a 30-year lease was a breath of fresh air for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans.
But then on Friday morning, the announcement of the personnel change in the organization left fans and media scratching their heads, making the team look unstable in the front office in regards to making tough decisions.
There was talk of "sweeping changes" coming for the organization following another disappointing playoff run for the fifth straight season. A clear consensus showed that many believed head coach Dan Bylsma would be the most likely candidate to be shown the door by the weekend.
Another reality was that Ray Shero, who helped make the Penguins Stanley Cup Champions in 2009, but yet, has been the other half of the Penguins playoff problems over the last five years, could be let go too.
Friday morning was judgement day for both Bylsma and Shero. Or so we thought.
Despite a report from the always reliable Bob McKenzie of TSN, Penguins President David Morehouse announced that only Ray Shero was being relieved of his duties, leaving Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic to ask the obvious question.
"Just to be 100% clear here, you have not fired Dan Bylsma?" To which Morehouse responded, "That's correct, we have not fired Dan Bylsma."
So, after all the reports, and the obvious assumption that Bylsma and Shero would be fired to create a clean slate for the Penguins to start over with, the Penguins decided to fire the general manager, and let the new guy evaluate the coaching staff and then eventually fire Bylsma?
To add to all the awkwardness of the press conference, Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle were nowhere to be found, until later on when Kovacevic and Post-Gazette columnist, Gene Collier, got their take on the decision to fire Shero, which angered beat writers who cover the team.
It does sound simple when said by Morehouse, but it really isn't. Is there a reason behind treating Bylsma like a death row inmate in California, not knowing when his fate will be decided?
There have been some "theories" regarding why the Penguins decided not to sack Disco Dan on Friday.
The one gaining the most traction is the fear that Bylsma and Shero will reunite and head to the Washington Capitals, a new division rival of the Penguins, or to keep him from coaching the Carolina Hurricanes, who are also in the badly-named Metropolitan Division.
Until the Penguins choose Shero's successor, Dan Bylsma remains the head coach of the Penguins. Question is, who will be the next general manager?
Current interim GM Jason Botterill is a candidate. While qualified to fill the position, he did work under Shero. If the Penguins want change, Botterill may not be the route to go.
Another one is Sidney Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson. While it may please the Pittsburgh captain, it would be like when you played peewee hockey and your head coach was the father of one of the players on the team. Too much talk of nepotism and some awkwardness would derive from that move. It's another Milbury talking point at intermission on NBCSN waiting to happen.
Will this newly hired general manager evaluate the staff and decided to keep Dan Bylsma? There's a 1.5% chance that actually happens, especially if the Penguins bring in an outsider to fill the position. That guy will want the ability to hire a coach of his liking.
There's the next question, who gets hired to be the next coach if or when Bylsma gets relieved of his duties?
Again, talk of the Penguins persuing Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, names like Mike Keenan and Barry Trotz being aimlessly tossed around like a puck on a Pittsburgh power play.
Here's the answer to all these questions as of today: We Don't Know Anything. When we don't know anything, it makes many question if the organization knows what they're doing.
The only thing we know, as reported by Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is that the new GM will report directly to Morehouse, and not Lemieux and Burkle like Shero did.
In this situation, the only thing Pens fans can do is sit back, watch the rest of the playoffs and wait for the next hat to drop down at CONSOL Energy Center while assuming anything can happen.
As Phil Bourque says, "Buckle up Baby!"
ESPN SportsCenter App, MLB At-Bat App, Sending Alerts That Pirates-Cardinals Game is Postponed
The Pittsburgh Pirates are hosting their first Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN for the first time since July 28, 1996 and their first ever at PNC Park.
Pirates and Cardinals fans who subscribe to mobile alerts from ESPN's SportsCenter and MLB At-Bat App, received an alert telling them that the game tonight was postponed. Some even got two of them within 15 minutes of each other.
Here's the problem. It's currently 75 degrees and partly sunny in Pittsburgh right now. No rain or meteors in sight. Just in case you weren't in western Pennsylvania when you saw the alert.
Here's the SportsCenter Alert(s)...
The Pirates twitter account said that everything is scheduled as planned, and the ESPN wesbite still has the game beginning at 8:05pm EST.
This isn't the first time the SportsCenter App has glitched since the update last October.
Here's another alert that had the Pirates and Cubs ending in a 0-0 tie in 10 innings last month.
The Pirates can't be too happy about this. Especially since this is the first time in 18 years that Pittsburgh has been highlighted on Sunday Night Baseball at home.
So, go to the game, it's still on. Ignore another bad glitch by ESPN's moblie app.
NBC's "Championship Sunday" was the finale to the 38 match season in which all 10 games were shown on every cable channel NBC/Universal owns.
Even though Premier League soccer fans around the U.S. could watch their favorite club today for the last time this season, there were only two games that really mattered.
Liverpool-New Castle on NBCSN and Manchester City-West Ham United on NBC.
The scenario was simple. If Manchester City won, they clinched their second title in three season. If Liverpool won and Machester City lost, it would be the Reds first top division title since the 1989-90 season.
There are three things that could happen on the final day of the Premier season. There might be a chase for one of the top four spots to the Champions League, avoiding relegation, and fighting for the league title. The only thing at risk was the Premier League title. Nothing else.
Liverpool rallied after going down 1-0 early to win 2-1, but Manchester City beat West Ham United 2-0, so there was little to no drama toward the end of each match. Both matches ended within minutes of each other.
Everyone was hoping for something big to happen in the final day of competition. Instead, we were left with Manchester City winning their second title in three years, and Liverpool wishing they had not blown a 3-0 lead to Crystal Palace back on May 5.
In the end, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal qualify for UEFA Champions League play, and Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff are relegated into the Football League Championship for finishing in the bottom three.
This was the first year for Premier League coverage on NBC. Many can agree that the network did a great job presenting the game on NBC and NBCSN this season, they did have a nice boost in ratings for matches in February, and it did bring out more fans of soccer and the English Premier League in the United States.
When the final numbers come in for the Liverpool and Manchester City matches, it can give NBC a good idea of how they did in their first season of coverage, and where it's going in the future. The ratings should be good.
It should be expected that the other eight matches that were shown on channels like Oxygen, E! and Bravo probably didn't achieve the same type of numbers in the networks promotion of the matches, with just about a month to go before the World Cup begins in Brazil.
Personally, I am not a big soccer fan, but the Barclays Premier League has grabbed my attention.
The week is going to hopefully end on a positive note for the sports world. Mainly because the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby is Saturday. If there are three days when everyone likes horse racing, the run for the roses at Churchill Downs is one of them.
This week got off to a bad start in sports when everyone heard Clippers owner Donald Sterling saying racists things in a private conversation with his girlfriend, or mistress, or lady friend, that got leaked to TMZ during the weekend.
On Tuesday, Adam Silver banned the bigoted, slumlord for life from the NBA and is committed to forcing Sterling to sell the team, ridding the Association of Sterling in every aspect.
It was not a great moment for professional sports in America. Especially in a sports where a three-fourths of your players are minorities and a good percentage of coaches are as well.
The Boston Bruins had a situation on their hands following Game 1 of their second round matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
P.K. Subban, a lethal defender, who is considered a bad guy outside of Montreal, got the game winning goal in double overtime with his well known slap shot from the right point, beating Rask and giving the Canadiens an early 1-0 series lead.
As the shot went in, I knew that the response from some Bruins fans would be driven toward Subban's race. If you don't know, Subban is one of the few black players in the NHL. Some responses from those in the crowd at TD Garden and on social media were so bad, team President and former Bruins captain Cam Neely publicly apologized for the fanbase's words.
-Some more racists posts attacking Subban
Side Note: P.K.'s brother, Malcolm, is a goaltender who is currently on the Bruins AHL club in Providence.
So, we saw racists remarks from a man who owns a basketball team, and it caught the attention of everyone in the country. Thursday night in Boston, we saw it again, this time, done by hockey fans directing hate at one of the few black players in professional hockey.
There is a movement to remove racism in sports and in society. The problem is, racism is a bad case of fleas that humanity has that it just can't shake, no matter how hard it tries.
We hear the response from people this week, all in a universal voice denouncing Donald Sterling, calling him a racist, which he blatantly is. Some of those same people in Boston and those on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter threw around the n-word and other disgusting slurs to vent their anger toward Subban.
Just another case of hypocrisy and double standards that continue to plaque the war to end racism, much like the war on drugs that many are still fighting over four decades later.
Everyone wants to be progressive and rid everyone and everything of racism. NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, banning well-known bigot Donald Sterling and Cam Neely publicly apologizing for the behavior and words of Bruins fans send a message that their two leagues do not tolerate racism toward players of a different skin color. Problem is, it's still around.
A week in which many in America condemned Sterling's remarks ended with racists remarks toward a black hockey player in Boston.
In the effort to end racism, we still have a long way to go.