Thursday, March 08, 2007

"It's the Final Countdown..."

The phrase made popular in the 1986 Europe hit is upon us. All of the players in the arena game are arriving in Philadelphia and getting ready to face off in the final battle to save the PITTSBURGH Penguins. Pittsburgh being the operative term...

The past two days have been very difficult for the fans of the Penguins...they are the ones who are set to be hurt the most by any move. While the team's brass was meeting with officials in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the people of Pittsburgh sat on pins and needles waiting for some kind of response from local government. News finally leaked of a meeting that would take place in Philadelphia at an undisclosed location. The Governor was not the happiest camper, but still remained cautiously optimistic that a deal could be brokered during a final sit down.

From the sound of the news that has come out over the past couple days, the competition may have gotten a bit stiffer. It is believed that Kansas City has significantly increased their offer to the Penguins, so much so that they cancelled any possible visits to Houston.

I was asked several times over the last couple days what I thought would happen...will they stay or will they go? I still think that they are going to stay, placing odds at about 60-40. However, if the Penguins have their so-called feather ruffled by the Governor as they did in a prior meeting, talks could breakdown quickly.

Everything that has happened up until this point was a necessary evil. These are the steps of the negotiation. There is take and give, good and bad, pressure to the brink and then hopefully a resolution.

Today reminds me an awful lot of the final days before the lockout ended. Granted, that was a long process that resulted in the loss of a season, but I have the same feeling in my gut. A feeling that says we will not be let down. One that says we will find out that we have our team signed, sealed and delivered for the next 30 years.

Something else that came to mind today, I remember sitting in the stands in 1999 watching as Jaromir Jagr came back from a horrible groin injury to tie and then win a playoff game against the New Jersey Devils. There was a very big chance that it would be the last game ever played in Pittsburgh. The team's future was very much in doubt. Two people were involved in the process that saved the team that year...those same two men are part of the group involved in tonight's meeting: Mario Lemieux and Gary Bettman.

I still believe that Mario wants to keep the team in Pittsburgh and I think that he will do what is needed to broker this deal. Gary Bettman also would like this team to stay right where it is; it is the poster child for HIS new NHL. One that has a lot of home grown, drafted talent...and one that will be able to control the future of those players for at least 7 years under the new CBA. Pittsburgh is one of the biggest draws in the league on television and at the gate, the league doesn't want them buried in Kansas City or anywhere else. A move is not out of the question, but it will be a last resort.

I am hoping that by tomorrow at this time we can start to reminisce about the last time we almost lost the Penguins and look ahead to winning multiple Stanley Cups in our region's new Multi Purpose Arena! Imagine how great that new building could look with that Mario Lemieux statue looking on from in front of the building.

Keep your fingers crossed Penguins is going to be a long night.


Coach Michel Therrien lost his father today. Gerry Therrien died at home in Montreal after a long illness. He was 77 years old.

Assistants Mike Yeo and Andre Savard will coach the team in Therrien's absence.


Nils Ekman will return to the press box in favor of Michel Ouellet. I think Nils will ultimately regain a regular spot in the line-up, but he may not have been completely back conditioning-wise. He does have the capability of playing on the top lines and I look for him to do so as soon as he is able to get his wind.


Marc Andre Fleury will make the start tonight.


Jordan Staal set and NHL Rookie Record by recording his 7th short handed goal of the year Tuesday night in Ottawa. The record was previously held by Gerry Minor of Vancouver in 1980-81 and tied by John Madden of New Jersey in 1999-00.


Newly acquired defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski could play tonight.


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