Monday, December 12, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Mario

The Penguins just can’t get it together. Sid the Kid was suppose to stop the bleeding, help the city of Pittsburgh realize that a new stadium was what Mario Lemieux and the Penguins needed to bring back a championship team. I guess Pittsburgh is Steeler town.

Every thing is just going wrong for the team. After making the jump to get a talented rookie, and spending enough to pepper the team with proven veteran players, the Penguins face the truth that Pittsburgh really doesn’t need a NHL Franchise.

The Penguins play in the Mellon Arena, the smallest in the league. Even if the Penguins sell out every game from now to the end of the season in 2007 when the lease on the Mellon Arena runs out, the team will not make enough money for even running cost, so they say.

The team desperately needs a new arena, but it’s very doubtful they will get it in time. Too little, too late. The Penguins are looking into funding for a new stadium through a slot license. But it is unclear if the ownership can get the license to start the funding project.

It brings up a plethora of “what ifs” that right now neither Lemieux nor the ownership can really answer with much certainty. The only real answer that is barreling down on them is to move the team. Kansas City and Houston have expressed interest.

My Penguin friends are very concerned that the jerseys they are donning for every game will soon be just collectibles, and the NHL will never play a game again in Pittsburgh. “They are your elected officials,” I tell them.

From the articles I have read in Pittsburgh, the city and county officials are willing to sit down and hear the woes of the Penguins, but seem less likely to act upon those accounts. If the city doesn’t want the team, or doesn’t want to find a solution, then there is no reason for the team to stay, despite a loyal fan base.

If the team were to move to K.C., the chances Nashville will be pushed into the Eastern Conference are great. By proximity, the Predators would be a perfect fit into the Southeast Division.

The Capitals would move into the Atlantic Division which would be more competitive and would improve the Capitals attendance by being close to their rivals (which means more fans from other teams at the phone booth).

No doubt that Ted Leonsis has some interest in Pittsburgh’s demise. But for now it’s a waiting game, will Pittsburgh finance a new arena for their beloved Penguins, or will we be seeing a new team in the Midwest?

If the Penguins do decide to move the team, it will mark an end of an era of great games and rivalries between the Capitals and the Penguins. My first NHL game I ever attended was a Caps/Pens game at the Capital Center.

As much as I hate the Penguins, I would not like to see the team go down like this. But their departure may help the Capitals depart the Southeast Division, argued as the worst division in the NHL.

It’s a question that places a cloud over Mellon Arena, and makes Penguins fans nervous.

-- Other Notes --

  • Olympic talk is running rampant; Lemieux and Steve Yzerman have opted out of playing in Turin. Many Canadians find it a welcome sight not to have either on their Olympic team. Now, how can we convince Jeremy Roenick?

  • Eddie Belfour just can’t surpass Terry Sawchuck. Stuck on 447 wins, Belfour has tried 4 times to move to second place, but has failed. He will get it, but it won’t be against former teammates.

  • John Grahame set a new franchise record of nine consecutive win. Khabibulin who?

  • Shout-out to former Cap, Mike Grier. He had a big night for the Sabres with the winning goal in overtime over the Minnesota Wild. It’s always good to see former Capitals do better on other teams. Maybe not.

That is all I got. Caps play L.A. on Wednesday, late game at 10:30 pm. Bring the chips.

**Editors Note: Okay, you can stop emailing me, my friends from the north. There is a third city that has expressed interest in pulling the Penguins from Pittsburgh. I apologize to my Canadien readers for my exclusion of Winnipeg. 12/13/05

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