Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The NHL is Back! Mario' Heart, Arena News and EC Back in the Saddle Again

Well, it seemed like ages since the NHL went on it's Olympic hiatus, but it is finally over and we have the NHL back. The games got underway tonight. To add extra excitement, the NHL trade deadline is right around the corner and many rumors are swirling! Will the Penguins do anything? I am not sure, but the popular speculation has Mark Recchi possibly heading back to the Flyers. Will John LeClair move? How about Rick Jackman? The Penguins did recall Eric Christensen as soon as the roster freeze was lifted, since they only had two healthy centers on the roster: Sidney Crosby and Shane Endicott. EC will definitely help add some offense to the line-up. This move puts the Penguins at the roster limit of 23. Who is shipping out, will another veteran be heading down to the farm?

The Baby Pens in Wilkes Barre-Scranton are definitely going to be challenged in the goal scoring department. I am waging that any trades that the Penguins make will bring back an AHL forward or 2 to help the cause in Wilkes Barre-Scranton.

Mario Lemieux had successful surgery to restore his natural heart rhythm yesterday. Mario stated when he retired that he did not want to take medication for the rest of his life, especially since it is known to cause fatigue etc. Mario said that the procedure sounded like the best avenue, and sought the advise of Toronto Maple Leafs/Team Canada coach Pat Quinn, who had the same surgery in the past. Pat Quinn mentioned feeling better than ever after the surgery and that he wanted to consider it. Penguin team officials released a statement saying that Mario had the procedure and was released from the hospital today. He is home and resting. Mario should be able to resume all normal activities in a short period of time.

Something groundbreaking happened today in regard to the arena/slots proposal situation. County Executive Dan Onorato was interviewed on a morning talk show about the slots proposals and the prospects of a new multipurpose arena. The County Executive still did not come out and endorse the Isle of Capri/Penguins plan, but he did say that he felt the Isle of Capri have set the bar for the other applicants. Mr. Onorato feels that if the Isle of Capri thinks enough revenue will be generated to donate $290 million dollars for a new arena, each applicant should buck up and donate the same amount of money. The County Executive also said that there are no local "plan B" monies available at a county level and he intends to tell Governor Rendell just that in April when the public hearings take place in April. This could be a big step. You could hear passion in Onorato's voice when he talked about the prospects of losing the Penguins. He was also passionate about the fact that the city does need a new building. If Onorato gets behind this thing and continues to encourage other local leaders to do so, it can only be a positive. The gaming board will be hard pressed to make any decision that isn't endorsed by local government, and Onorato said that after he and the Mayor are done fact finding and researching all the proposals they will indeed back one of them. It could definitely be a win-win situation if all proposals are encouraged to pay for a new arena. The Penguins either win the Slots license and get a new building, or lose the license and still get a new building!

Ryan Vandenbussche has had season ending cervical spine surgery. He has not played since December 27.

It also looks like Lyle Odelein has played his last NHL game. He was trying to work his way back from several injuries anyway, but his knee gave out during a physical ability test. He will have season ending surgery to repair the damage.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pittsburgh First Video

Please check out this video that Pittsburgh First has put together. It is great to see the quote from the Rally and commissioner Bettman all together. Pass this link to other as well. We all need to get on board with these people. They have taken a grassroots movement and have really gotten it in the public eye. When we attended the first Save the Pens rally in December there were about 30 people. The Pittsburgh First group planned for a long time, got politicians on board, teamed with the PIHL and had a rally with 500! This is very cool, please do your part....Check my links on the right for the video link....thank you!

Malkin Out For Match With Finns

Penguins prospect Evgeni Malkin, who has picked up 6 points (2 G 4 A) in the Olympic tourament for Russia, has been suspended for their semi final match-up against Finland for a kicking incident. Malkin was judged by officials to have attempted a kicking motion at Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier late in Russia's win over Canada yesterday.

The Penalty did draw the ire of veteran Alexi Yashin, "We try to stay away from [that kind of thing]. A penalty like that could cost us the game. But he's young and he can learn."

Malkin will only miss the Friday game.

We're Back!

Well, we have resurfaced from the pseudo-Olympic hiatus. During that time some strange things have gone down. The Gold and the Silver medal winners from 2002 have been knocked out of the tournament. I personally didn't think that the US team had a chance for anything better than a Bronze, and a minute chance it was. Canada on the other hand, that was sort of a shock. Looking at their team on paper, especially the goaltending. I never thought they would be unable to out score the opposition. Who would have thought that they would be shut out in back to back games!

I do have to say that watching the games has been an absolute blast. The speed of the games has been amazing. When Canada got it's power play set up and were cycling the way they could, they were probably the most dangerous unit in the games. Unfortunately, they were unable to do that with frequency. The European teams are really showing that they have many talented players in their ranks. The Russians look very tough to beat. Slovakia has been a surprise, as well as the Swiss. Can you say all tournament goaltender: Martin Gerber! My picks for the medals pre-tournament:
Gold: Czech Republic
Silver: Canada
Bronze: Russia

My picks today:
Gold: Russia
Silver: Czech Republic
Bronze: Finland

The Russian team has been a real treat to follow. Ovechkin has been scoring at or above the level he was at in the NHL. Kovalev looks like his old Penguins self, which could bode very well for Montreal upon his return. Most importantly, Evgeni Malkin does not look out of place. Which is exciting. He even had his best game of the tournament Tuesday when he picked up 1G and 2A in the win versus the United States.

Getting back to some NHL talk. The Pittsburgh Penguins got back to practice yesterday. They held a 55 minute session. The workout was a spirited one and was a good first step to getting them back into the action. Much of the team hadn't skated in over a week. Many of them were on vacation in such places as Jamaica, where goalie Marc Andre Fleury headed. The team does have ample time to get back into game shape though, their next game is not until March 1st against the Ottawa Senators. Coach Michel Therrien has said that the team will use the practice time as a mini training camp. Let's see if he can whip these guys into shape now that he has the practice to work with.

More on the Pens arena issue. Of course all of the local government in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania are still trying to sell the story that the Penguins are wrong to ignore their requests for discussion on a plan b. This whole situation is so unbelievable. I still have a major problem with the fact that the officials have done nothing for the past 4 years but tell the Penguins that their were no public funds available for an arena. The Slots license is probably your only chance to get the funding necessary, Rendell told the team. Well, the team took that to heart and have come up with an amazing plan. That is the thing that the local and state Government didn't bank on. What does a sports team know about gaming? Anyway, that brings the newest twist that was mentioned here in the past: A plan B, with a PUBLICLY FUNDED arena!!!! That is amazing. Why didn't we think of that before?? Damn the idea of a privately funded arena that will cost the City or it's taxpayers nothing. We think that the Penguins should consider something else....Public funding! I live in the City of Pittsburgh and will seriously think of leaving a city that I love if I am forced to pay for an arena that could have been built for free. Especially because it WILL be built. There is no doubt in my mind that the city will build a new arena. They will just do it a little too late, will have to find a new anchor tenant, and will have done it with our money! How insane.

Now the Governor wants to go right to the NHL to discuss an alternate plan to keep the Pens. Mayor Bob O'Connor and County Executive Dan Onorato want to meet with the Penguins. They claim that they are all frustrated by the team's stubborn stance. They cannot fathom why the team could be in breach of contract with a BUSINESS PARTNER if they discuss an alternate plan. O'Connor went as far as saying in a radio interview this week that he told the team prior to entering into that Slots partnership with the Isle of Capri that it was the wrong move. He is also saying that the team may not have had as much cooperation in the Mayor's office prior to his being elected. "I am the new guy on the block and want the team here." Bob, you were the City council president, you had a say or at least some influence in whatever the Mayor's office did in the past. You have run for Mayor in the past 2 or 3 or was it 4 elections. You and Mr. Onorato care about Pittsburgh, but you care more about your Political careers. The healthiest thing for either of your careers is to run with whatever story your party's governor tells you. It is sad. I really hope I am wrong about your intentions to discuss plan B. I think that it is a foregone conclusion that some other group has been promised the license, but if you are all sincere about plan B......maybe we just might keep our team.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Are These Guys and What Did They Do With The Penguins!!!

The Pens ended their losing ways in style over the weekend with consecutive road victories! They started with a huge win Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, who had only lost 4 games all season at home. Then knocked off the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin for the 3rd time this season! The second win gave Sidney a 3-0 lead in the #1 overall head to head series.

The team got splendid goaltending throughout both contests, especially on Saturday night, when Marc Andre Fleury kept the Pens above water while they faced a 13-1 deficit in shots in the first period. He did his best to remind everyone that he too, was a #1 overall pick!

The best thing about the winning streak has been the play of Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Sergei Gonchar. These guys were supposed to play a big part in getting the Pens back to the playoffs this season and have come far short of that goal. Their play was definitely a breath of fresh air this weekend. Mark Recchi and John LeClair chipped in with 2G 3 A each, Gonchar had 1G 3A in the Washington game, his first in the MCI Center since being traded by the Caps to the Boston Bruins in 03-04. Sidney Crosby also had 2G 2A in the wins this weekend. Seems he has finally found some effective linemates in Mark Recchi and Colby Armstrong. The line combined for 13 points (5G 8A) in the two games.

The Penguins definitely seem to have gotten some momentum going, unfortunately it may come to a grinding halt. The Olympic break is upon us and they will not play another game until March 1st. The team will regroup for a mini training camp of sorts on February 23.

I personally am getting excited for the Olympic hockey. I have been watching some of the women's games, but it just isn't the same unless the US and Canada are playing each other. As much as it is fun to watch the skill of those two teams, a 16-0 Canadian spanking of Italy is not my idea of good television. The Men's tournament that will get underway on the 15th is where my focus will be. I am looking forward to one of my first chances to see Penguins prospect Evgeni Malkin, especially surrounded with such talent. It will be exciting to see all of our NHL heroes as they represent their countries proudly. I am very interested to see how team Canada responds, will the gambling scandal and Wayne's name being thrown out wildly cause any grief?

Speaking of Wayne, I can just see him sitting at a table with the investigators, like the Geico guy with the cavemen.....as Tocchet orders the Roast Duck with the Mango Salsa, Wayne says: "I don't have much of an appetite, thank you. Next time do a little research." I mean....talk about irresponsible journalism! The media is so quick to try and throw a big name under the bus. They didn't hesitate to assume Wayner was in the know weeks ago. Very convenient that they would just report erratically, especially with the Olympics a week away at the time. They should be ashamed. The situation ends up being a friend finding out that he is in trouble. He calls his friend and co-worker to tell him and ask for advice. Possibly mentions that the friend's wife is involved, causing the: "What can we do to not have her implicated" comments. What man wouldn't want to get his wife or girlfriend out of a situation. I was sad to see the media publicizing that Wayne and Janet tend to play some blackjack in Vegas....last I heard, gambling is legal there. WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL! It has nothing to do with the gambling ring. If they are involved in that so be it, but them playing blackjack in a legal casino is not illegal.

So Forsberg is heading to the Olympics. I would like to see him healthy, but it just doesn't sound like a wise decision. He hasn't been able to play recently, and should probably forgo the Olympics so that his bothersome groin is ready for the rest of the season in Philly. If he ends up playing and injures himself worse he will be sure to face backlash. The same backlash Mario Lemieux faced from a lot of people when they thought he blew the Penguins off to win a gold medal in 2002. I was with Mario on that one, which 36 year old wouldn't take a chance to win a gold medal representing his country. In Foppa's case, he will have another Olympic chance in 2010, he should put the Flyers first.

Well, let's get to the Olympic tournament. It begins tomorrow boys and girls!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Christensen recalled for the weekend

Jonathan Bombulie is reporting that the Penguins have recalled Eric Christensen from WBS for the weekend games. He will then be sent back down to play during the Olympic games. Welcome back EC!!

According to TSN.ca Surovy in for the Games!

Congrats Tomas!!! Have a great Olympic Games and come back gunning! Sidney will be looking for you to score from that wing!

Tocchet Rocket, The Gambling Ring and Some Thoughts....

Sorry that I haven't posted anything for this week up until this point. We have been suffering that great Super Bowl hang over here in Pittsburgh, plus I had a couple personal issues to attend too. On to the Blog!

In light of the allegations that Rick Tocchet is facing, I thought that I would share a couple thoughts on the matter. As of right now, no one is really certain what is going on. There are many rumors and supposed links floating around, but the bottom line is no one really is in the know aside from the investigators in New Jersey working on "Operation Slap Shot." This could be something that really cuts to the heart of the NHL, especially when they have already thrown the NHL's biggest name into the ring: Wayne Gretzky.

Dicky Tocchet is one of my all time favorite NHL players, as well as Pittsburgh Penguins. I don't think that it is fair to completely slander or judge him until the full story comes to light. I doubt that there are many among us who have not placed a bet or participated in a poll of some sort, granted this is on a much larger scale. Some may ask, why would a man who is as much in the public eye with the world in the palm of his hand, get himself involved in something like this. Well, some times you just fall into a situation and don't even realize the consequences. Could it be that some people have gotten busted in this ring and are offering up Rick Tocchet to try and get out of it themselves. These and many other questions may never fully be answered. I just think that it must be treaded on very lightly. Rick Tocchet has ties to many influential people in the NHL, and it is a shame that their names are being thrown around carelessly as being involved. Mark Recchi and John LeClair have already retained an Attorney to help them either stop the slander or to bring lawsuits against those who are spreading the rumors. The Attorney, Bob Del Greco, has categorically denied the involvement of Recchi and LeClair. He has also gotten most of the previously reported news retracted. The coming weeks will really tell the story in this case, but until the facts come to light, it is definitely wise to sit on any names that may be thrown around. Something like this can stick with a person, and to have it attached to those who may not be involved isn't right. I am sure that we will be talking about this for the foreseeable future.

I sort of feel like I am in the movie "Groundhog Day," after each Penguins loss. That is 17 of 18 at last count! As my alarm goes off playing the sonny and Cher tune "I've Got You Babe" each morning....dreading that, not unlike Bill Murray playing the Pittsburgh newscaster who has to report on Groundhog Day again and again, I have to hear, talk, read, and report on another Penguins loss!! This time a 3-1 sleeper against the Boston Bruins. The Penguins managed 17 shots and most of them were not even worth considering scoring chances. This was one game in which Boston goaltender Tim Thomas could avoid his post game shower all together if he chose. Though it was so cold in Pittsburgh last night, he probably needed it to warm up, after not coming close to breaking a sweat during the game.

This is a very dark time in Pittsburgh. The future of our team is in question, we just lost the most beloved player in our history, most of our future stars are being subjected to the most humbling situation in their young careers and even our brightest hope, Sidney Crosby, seems to be getting discouraged. There is some good news though, and it definitely does not involve my care insurance! The fact that we have these young superstars, Marc Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney, Eric Christensen, Michel Ouellet, Colby Armstrong, and most importantly, Sidney Crosby, bodes very well for our team moving forward. The experimental jump start of the rebuilding process in Pittsburgh by signing a bunch of vets and grey beards has failed horribly, but we still have our dynamic youth. We also have the much imminent arrival of Evgeni Malkin as soon as next year. I for one cannot wait for that day. It also stands to reason that the Penguins will have a top 3 pick again this season. The world will be their oyster with that one. What would you do, pick up another possible star in Kessel, Johnson or Staal, or trade the pick. I think it comes down to how badly people in the league want one of these youngsters. I personally have given a lot of thought to this, and if you can get the right deal for the pick, an nhl ready prospect or 2 plus remain in the top 10, it has to be considered. Though I fear what Craig Patrick will do if this all takes place on his watch, but it seems like a slam dunk either way.

Mighty Mite Penguins forward, Tomas Surovy, has been added to the Slovakian National team's taxi squad. There is no guarantee that Tomas will get to play in Turin, but he has a chance. Congrats Tomas! Now if you can only learn to lift a puck! This kid is a 40 goal scorer waiting to happen. He has great hands, but he shoots everything along the ice, especially at close range.

The thinking around town is that a different Penguins team will take the ice when the Olympic break ends. It has been speculated that a lot of GMs around the league were waiting for after the games to pull the trigger on their deals. This was due to many teams not being willing to pay for a new player while he was participating in the Olympics, or sits at home during the games. Who could be gone? My picks are as follows: LeClair, Recchi, Cross, Malone(for the right deal, though he well removed from the dog house now), and maybe Sergei Gonchar. Let the games begin.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rally Seemingly a Success!

An Estimated 500 supporters showed up, in the rain and 2 hours before face-off! NBC has also mentioned the rally! Way to go Penguin Nation! Hopefully, our Great Governor will take notice.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rendell At It Again!

Governor Ed Rendell made the talk radio rounds yesterday afternoon and this morning. He was interviewed by Stan Savran, Junker and Crowe, and the WDVE morning team of Krenn and Bouman. In all interviews he insisted that he and local government are trying to put together a plan B and the Pittsburgh Penguins will have none of it. He is moving forward, all guns blazing, with the "Penguins Won't Let Me Help Them" campaign. He made a point of stating that he would love to discuss a plan that would utilize public funding to build an arena; "even though the polls show that the public is against it." He also went on to say that: "I am willing to stick my neck out here. Stick my neck out for something I know that the public is against." The interviewers asked him some tough questions and he tip toed out of them with this notion that he cannot help the team if they will not allow it.

I still cannot fathom how he can come forward and maintain a straight face as he says he would utilize public funding when he went out of his way to say the Pens best chance for a new arena would be to apply for the Stand Alone Slots License. I think that the governor had his bluff called. I don't think that he thought the league would allow the Penguins to pursue the license. Once that was approved, he probably had no idea that the Penguins plan would be one of, it not the best plan going. One of the main criteria for the licensure is that the winner has to do the most for the region. The Pittsburgh Penguins/Isle of Capri plan calls for about $300,000,000 of redevelopment in an area of the city that really needs it. The group that plans to build the casino in Station Square is prepared to give back something like $30,000,000 in development, but that would take place in an area that already draws tourists and locals.

Rendell stated again and again that no public money was available. Very funny how now that is a viable options. When asked if he saw the Penguins being here in 3 years, he said: "Well, that is a hard question to answer. I am not even sure who the owner will be by then." He claims that the Penguins and the people of Pittsburgh seem to think that the gaming board can be influenced by politicians or rallies and that it is a misconception. He states that the gaming board is an independent body who cannot even have conversations with politicians or organizations. This again seems like a misleading statement, considering that Rendell appointed the committee. At least the people who are in charge of it.

The bottom line is that Rendell is trying his best to paint the Penguins as the ones who are not willing to cooperate with he and other local politicos. This is all being done so that if the team ends up leaving he can wash his hands of it. The picture is being painted. At least local media seems to understand that this is all bunk. One of the interviews even commented about the stupidity of the logic. You have an organization willing to build the arena with no public cost and you want to discuss alternatives that will require taxpayers to pick up the burden. It just doesn't make sense. Let's just hope that the Gaming Control Board does the right thing.

Please do not forget the "Save the Pens" rally Saturday afternoon outside of Gate 3 at Mellon Arena. The rally will get underway at 12:00pm prior to the game against the New York Islanders. This game will be nationally broadcast on NBC and there is a chance that they will show some footage during the game. Make sure we represent the City and the Pittsburgh Penguins well!! Here are some specifics that have been mailed out by the guys at Slotsformario.com.

Why: Rally to show public support for the Penguins/Isle of Capri slots license application.
The Penguins have partnered with the Isle of Capri to build a new multi-purpose arena for the City of Pittsburgh with no taxpayer money. They will also help revitalize the Lower Hill District and Uptown area of Downtown Pittsburgh. If you believe as we do that this is the best plan out of the three applications for Pittsburgh's only slots parlor, show up and voice your support!

When: Saturday February 4th before the Pens nationally televised game vs. The Islanders.
Entertainment by the Blue Line Band begins at 11:00AM and the rally program starts at noon.

Where: Outside Gate 3 at Mellon Arena.

What: There will be a variety of local politicians speaking out in support of the Isle of Carpi and Penguins application for the Pittsburgh slots license. A few Penguins alumni might even show up to show their support for the Penguins.

There will also be raffles of hockey and Penguins related items as well as tickets to an upcoming Penguins game.

Bring your signs and voices and let your wishes be heard!

If you care about keeping the Pens in Pittsburgh you should attend this rally whether you have tickets to the Penguins game or not. Be there to show your support for the Penguins and the Isle of Capri proposal for the slots license. Your attendance will help show the local and state politicians who have not backed the Isle of Capri proposal that the people of the Pittsburgh region want this to happen.
If you would like any more information on the rally email us at info@slotsformario.com

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Save Our Pens - Please Email These influential People

Just wanted to pass on an email list that I received from a friend tonight. Just copy and paste this email list in the recipient section of your email and you will be writing to a ton of people who could help push the Penguins Slots Proposal. It is coming down to the wire and we are the only ones that can push Rendell to do the right thing. If the public backlash is great enough this may just work out!! Send your emails supporting the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Isle of Capri to these people now!

Wadolph@pahousegop.com; kbeyer@pahousegop.com; Jbirmeli@pahousegop.com; RBunt@PAHouseGOP.com; tcreight@pahousegop.com; jevans@pahousegop.com; bfeese@pahousegop.com; rflick@pahousegop.com; repgerber@pahouse.net; tharhai@pahouse.net; tkillion@pahousegop.com; bmackere@pahousegop.com; jmaher@pahousegop.com; jpallone@pahouse.net; fpistell@pahouse.net; dreichle@pahousegop.com; srohrer@pahousegop.com; repross@kennett.net; dsantoni@pahouse.net; mscavell@pahousegop.com; cschrode@pahousegop.com; tsolobay@pahouse.net; dsteil@pahousegop.com; etaylor@pahousegop.com; ktrue@pahousegop.com; mturzai@pahousegop.com; jwansacz@pahouse.net; garmstrong@pasen.gov; boscola@pasenate.com; dbrightbill@pasen.gov; pbrowne@pasen.gov; jconti@pasen.gov; jcorman@pasen.gov; costa@pasenate.com; jearll@pasen.gov; eerickson@pasen.gov; ferlo@pasenate.com; fontana@pasenate.com; Senator_Fumo@fumo.com; jgordner@pasen.gov; sgreenleaf@pasen.gov; hughes@pasenate.com; rjubelirer@pasen.gov; kitchen@pasenate.com; lavalle@pasenate.com; clemmond@pasen.gov; logan@pasenate.com; rmadigan@pasen.gov; mellow@pasenate.com; musto@pasenate.com; opake@pasenate.com; jorie@pasen.gov; jpiccola@pasen.gov; dpileggi@pasen.gov; jpippy@pasen.gov; skohr@pasen.gov; jrafferty@pasen.gov; bregola@pasen.gov; jrhoades@pasen.gov; rrobbins@pasen.gov; jscarnati@pasen.gov; stack@pasenate.com; stout@pasenate.com; tartaglione@pasenate.com; rthompson@pasen.gov; rtomlinson@pasen.gov; pvance@pasen.gov; washington@pasenate.com; mwaugh@pasen.gov; nwenger@pasen.gov; dwhite@pasen.gov; mwhite@pasen.gov; williams@pasenate.com; chwilliams@pasenate.com; rwonderling@pasen.gov; wozniak@pasenate.com; ceo@pittsburghpenguins.com; council@county.allegheny.pa.us; executive@county.allegheny.pa.us; mdrozd@county.allegheny.pa.us; jdefazio@county.allegheny.pa.us; dfawcett@county.allegheny.pa.us; jrea@county.allegheny.pa.us; jburn@county.allegheny.pa.us; mfinnerty@county.allegheny.pa.us; vgastgeb@county.allegheny.pa.us; jcleary@county.allegheny.pa.us; ewatt@county.allegheny.pa.us; cmartoni@county.allegheny.pa.us; cljabbour@county.allegheny.pa.us; wrobinson@county.allegheny.pa.us; rfitzgerald@county.allegheny.pa.us; rnerone@county.allegheny.pa.us; bfrazier@county.allegheny.pa.us; council@county.allegheny.pa.us

Also, do not forget the Save the Pens rally outside of the Mellon Arena before they square of against the New York Islanders on Saturday!! The rally will begin at 12:00pm with speakers and entertainment. This game will be carried live on a national NBC broadcast. Let's show the nation and more importantly, local government, that we love our Pens! The Penguins have also made it a Black and Gold day so support Pittsburgh Sports and the Steelers!!!