Friday, May 29, 2009

STANLEY CUP: PITTSBURGH PRIMER 'N AT


Everybody knows that the Penguins will be playing game one of the Stanley Cup Finals tomorrow (Saturday) night. But do you really know what these players have been fighting for?

That's why the editorial staff here at "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" decided that to be on the safe side, we should give you a little background information so as to make you better-informed fans. So without further adieu (as they would say in Canada) here is:

"YINZ PITTSBURGHERS' STANLEY CUP PRIMER 'N AT"

Of course most Pittsburghers know that the Stanley Cup was named after Lord Stanley, but who was this guy and why does everyone want his cup?

ABOVE: The man who inspired the memorable phrase, "Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley. Give me your brandy!"

Lord Stanley of Preston was actually the Governor General of Canada from 1888-1893. He was the youngest son of the 14th Earl of Derby (England). Stanley was quite the accomplished man. He graduated from prestigious Eton College and was a member of the Grenadier Guards. He was a member of Parliament and three times was elected prime minister. He was named Lord of the Admiralty and also Secretary of State for War and subsequently Secretary of State for the Colonies. He was also named President of the British Board of Trade. As you can see, Lord Stanley was quite the guy.
ABOVE: Just try getting one of these today! This is Lord Stanley's signature. Since he was known as the "Earl of Derby," he simply signed autographs as "Derby". Pretty cool!

Stanley was married and the father of eight children (two died in infancy) so it's safe to say that he was great at just about everything it seemed. At age 47, in 1888 Queen Victoria selected him to be the Governor General of Canada. During Stanley's tenure in Canada he often toured the country by train speaking of Canadian unity and spirit. In 1889 something very significant occurred. Lord Stanley saw a new game being played for the first time at the Montreal Winter Carnival. The game was called hockey. He was so immediately taken with it that he began organizing games with parliament employees. Stanley even formed a team called the Rideau (Montreal) Rebels and went so far as to introduce the game to new areas such as Toronto and Ottawa.


ABOVE: The original trophy that was named "The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup".

Stanley and two of his Rebel players would go on to establish the Ontario Hockey Association and he was eventually encouraged by two of his sons to donate a trophy for the teams to compete for. He called it the "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" but the name lasted just one year before people preferred calling it the "Stanley Cup".

ABOVE: The first Stanley Cup team. Notice that players back then only grew playoff moustaches.

In 1893 Stanley's brother died, so he received permission to come home to tend to his family's estates. He then became the 16th Earl of Derby when he returned. In subsequent years he would become First Lord Mayor of Greater Liverpool, the Mayor of Preston and the first Chancellor of Liverpool University.

On June 14th, 1908, the Earl died of a massive heart attack after having taken a walk. He died as one of the richest men in the world, but ironically, he never once saw the famous trophy that bore his name.

Lord Stanley was an aficionado of fine malts and whisky which led Penguin Broadcaster Mike Lange to loudly proclaim for the first time in 1991, "Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, give me your brandy" once the Pens won their first cup. Lange has subsequently used that line repeatedly to acquire free drinks wherever he goes.

The Mario Lemieux-led Penguins won back-to-back cups in '91 and '92. There was a drought between '92 and '08 in appearances in the finals. Last year marked the first time that the team advanced as far as the finals without winning it all. Pittsburgh lore has it that at a team party at Mario Lemieux's house the cherished trophy somehow wound up on the bottom of Mario's pool in 1991!

So this brings you up to date on the Stanley Cup other than the fact that Montreal has won about 300 cups and Detroit has around 20 of their own. We'd like to see Sid and Gino gather in about 10 or so during their Pittsburgh careers, so there's no time like the present to get going.


Below now, for your enjoyment, are some additional Stanley Cup photos we've culled from our archives. We'll call them:

LORD STANLEY'S PERSONAL PHOTO GALLERY



ABOVE: Sid and Gino. Yeah, they'll be questing for the cup alright!


ABOVE: There it is, the one thing that can make grown cry when they don't win it.



ABOVE: Who doesn't get a lump in their throat when they see this message buried under the ice for the first time each season?

ABOVE: "Heroes" actress Hayden Panetierre (a.k.a. the cheerleader) engages one of her own fantasies and becomes the first person ever to lick the Stanley Cup, immediately transforming it from trophy to phallic symbol.

ABOVE: "Mini-Me" actor Verne Troyer tries, unsuccessfully, to measure up to the Stanley Cup. He does, however, measure up to the woman in the background.


ABOVE: A New York fan resembling "Mr. Irrelevant," former PG sportswriter Bob Smizik, takes a cell phone picture. Should be a keeper!


ABOVE: A Columbus Bluejackets fan, no less, carries an inflatable cup to a first round game. There's no law against dreaming, even in Ohio.

ABOVE: The only thing I envision being cooked in the Cup this year is octopus, a delicious dish when served with a dressing of chopped garlic, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar. Delicioso!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BIGGEST TRAITORS IN PITTSBURGH SPORTS HISTORY RANKED BY "PITTSBURGH'S BLACK & GOLD"

I really don't know if anyone has ever tried to put together a list of the "Biggest Traitors in Pittsburgh Sports History" before, but I've assembled a top ten list that I'm hoping will spur some debate. Did I leave out someone? Very possible. Do you disagree with my ranking? Odds are that there will be some of that too. At any rate, I hope you enjoy (?) comparing this list to your own and offering some comments. So let's get started.

#10 DOUG DRABEK (P) PIRATES
You normally don't associate Doug Drabek's name with this type of a list, probably because his departure was overshadowed by another Bucco at the time. Drabek left for more money elsewhere, a common thread, as you will find, among seven of our inductees.

#9 RYAN MALONE (LW) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Ryan Malone left the Penguins last year after Tampa Bay offered him way more money for way more years than the Penguins did. Very few people could blame him for leaving, in fact. That's how good his contract offer was. We felt bad including Ryan on this list, however, he is a native Pittsburgher so unfortunately we had to put him on it. Pittsburghers should want to stay here, regardless of the money in Tampa bay. Think about it, because of his greed, he's not playing for a Stanley Cup right now!

#8 RAUL MONDESI (RF) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
The only thing good that Mondesi did was to leave in such a colorful fashion that he'll never be forgotten. He was so desperate to get out of Pittsburgh that he completely concocted a story about his family's home being under siege in the Dominican Republic. After getting a release from the Pirates, he promptly signed with the California Angels. This guy was traitorous alright. But at least he provided a good name for my son's blog, http://www.mondesishouse.blogspot.com/


#7 JIM LEYLAND (MGR) PGH.PIRATES
Leyland brought the Pirates to the brink of the World Series on a couple occasions then bolted after stars packed their bags. He ultimately guided the Florida Marlins to the best championship that money can buy and currently manages the Detroit Tigers. Leyland still resides in Pittsburgh which is an even greater irony. He has always maintained that his biggest thrill was the ovation he received during the All Star Game in Pittsburgh. He rewarded that ovation by bolting. Okay, we know the Pirates have had some lame front office people, but you ride these things out if you're truly loyal. Right?


#6 NEIL O'DONNELL (QB) PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Boy, if any of these traitors made a smart move in getting out of Dodge, it was this guy. After single-handedly costing the Steelers a victory against the Cowboys in Superbowl XXX, O'Donnell was offered a boatload of cash, for some reason, by the New York J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS. O'Donnell was an abject failure in Gotham and no one lost much sleep over this. In retrospect, he saved Pittsburgh fans a lot of booing over the next few years.

#5 MARIAN HOSSA (RW) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Hossa is one of the few people on this list who may yet get his own come-uppance. After being acquired in a blockbuster trade at the deadline last year, Hossa helped the Pens to the finals. He then spurned a huge long-term contract from the team, accepting instead an offer from the Detroit Red Wings because he felt that he'd,... "Have a better chance of winning the cup next year with Detroit." Ouch, ouch and ouch.
Now the Pens stand poised to challenge for the cup again with only the hated Hossa standing between them and Lord Stanley. Talk about bulletin board material!!! In retrospect, someday we may actually say that Hossa provided us with the motivation to win that third cup, and for that we may owe him a debt of gratitude. But we still hate him now, nevertheless. You'll see just how much once the series moves to Pittsburgh.


#4 BARRY BONDS (LF) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
It can probably be argued that Barry Bonds is the greatest player ever produced solely by the Pirates minor league organization. He was already one of the biggest names in the game, pre-roids, and had already choked in a couple NLCS series for the Buccos when he rejected an offer in excess of $50 million from them in order to play in San Francisco for his dad, Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, Willie Mays. The loss of Bonds set a series of dominoes in motion that still hasn't been reversed to this very day. Bonds subsequently began cheating with steroids and now has a gigantic head. Serves him right. Hopefully, if he goes to jail some day he can use some of those ill-gotten millions to buy himself cigarettes in the slammer.


#3 JIM BALSILLIE (EX-OWNER) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Surprise, surprise! This guy came about a hair's width away from acquiring the Pittsburgh Penguins when, during Mario's darkest hour in Pittsburgh, he decided to sell the franchise because of his frustration over the lack of a new arena deal. Make no mistake about it, this vulture was anxiously awaiting the first opportunity to move the team to Canada when the NHL wisely intervened. People can call the NHL a garage league all they want, but they had the foresight not to allow anything to happen to the Pittsburgh market, easily one of the top three in hockey. Yeah, I'd consider this guy a major traitor and maybe we should put up a statue to Gary Bettman in front of the new Consol Energy Arena!

ABOVE: Jaromir Jagr in New York with some gold-digging puck bunny who wants to leave the show early.
#2 JAROMIR JAGR (RW) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
I think the reason that Jaromir Jagr is so high on this list because he accomplished so much here only to make a ridiculous statement that he was ...,"Dying alive in Pittsburgh." This ingrate not only insulted every Pittsburgher with that remark, more importantly he insulted Mario Lemieux who shared in his victories. Jagr was highly-compensated while here, but it didn't matter. His gambling addiction was such that he needed every penny he could get his hands on. Now that he's no longer playing in the NHL, the Pens won't have to go through the embarrassment of seeing a player who has a banner hanging in the rafters of Mellon Arena being summarily booed each time he comes to town.

ABOVE: Jagr always possessed one of the greatest mullets ever in his youthful years.

AND NOW....
WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU.....
HERE HE IS......
YOUR NUMBER ONE TRAITOR..........
ABOVE: With a maniacal smile, Bill Cowher chucks a legacy as Steeler coach so that he can sound the hurricane siren before the Carolina Hurricane's final game against the Penguins.

#1 WILLIAM LAIRD COWHER (COACH) PGH STEELERS

Wow. This guy has really gone off the deep end. In his latter years as Steeler Coach the once whispers became a constant drumbeat that Cowher had become completely "full of himself." So much so that the Rooneys didn't put up a gigantic push to retain him as coach. Many were surprised, but I wasn't one of them. Cowher had run his course with this team and I just considered ourselves fortunate that we finally did get that SuperBowl after so many AFC Championship losses and even our first SuperBowl defeat.

Bill Cowher, after leaving his job, decided to leave his native Pittsburgh as well, planning instead on moving into this $2.5 million mansion. Apparently Pittsburgh was a good enough place to earn his salary, but not a good enough place to spend it!

















ABOVE: Casa De Cowher in Raleigh. Where a successful coach can live surrounded by truly quality folks.

Yes Bill Cowher became a most successful coach because of the unwavering faith of the Rooneys who stuck by him even after some poor seasons. Cowher, for his part, became synonymous with Steeler football, his square jaw, his scowling, his yelling at players and occasionally spraying saliva on them. He was a coach that the fans here could truly relate to because he was one of them! Which makes his recent Benedict Arnold act in Carolina even more difficult to swallow. Think about it: He traded his years of past popularity here and future icon status in order to sound a hurricane siren at a hockey
playoff game. Does this not make sense to anyone else besides me? I didn't think so.

ABOVE: Since leaving the Steelers, Cowher has been the object of many the photoshop artist. In this depiction he is clearing the shopping carts at the Mt. Ivy Wal Mart. Moments earlier he had helped Aunt Bea to her car.


ABOVE: Expect to see more than a few of these at Mellon Arena in the days ahead!

ABOVE: Is this photoshopper suggesting that Mr. Bill is now the "stupid" as referenced on the young, drunken lady's shirt? This just goes to show how far Bill Cowher has sunk on the respect chart in Pittsburgh. Hopefully, cranking that siren was worth the blow that his reputation has taken in these parts!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

COWHER BLOWS ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP WHILE SHOWING OFF "JACK-IN-THE-BOX" ROUTINE


ABOVE: Bill Cowher in full siren mode. "To Hell With My Legacy" he thought. "This reminds me too much of the good old days."

After watching Bill Cowher's shameful Benedict Arnold routine and the subsequent systematic dismantling of the last vestiges of the Carolina Hurricanes by the Penguins, I was uncharacteristically troubled. Why had Mr. Bill done it? He was more than a former Steeler coach, he was a native Pittsburgher after all! But it was more than that. Looking at the repeated replays of Bill Cowher, joy on his face, glimmer in his eyes, I realized there was more to it than cranking a warning siren. But what was it?

Instead of enjoying a contented sleep, I spent a restless night tossing, turning, seeing that intensely jovial face time and time again furiously turning that crank. Why was the former beloved Steeler coach so determined to crank this siren while showing indifference to his home town and their beloved Penguins? I was deeply troubled.

Bleary-eyed, the next morning I trudged to the bathroom to complete my morning ritual: Brush teeth, shave, shower, dress. The usual. I turned on my bathroom radio to listen to Jim Krenn and the boys at WDVE as I normally do. Unexpectedly, during one of their comic routines the topic turned to Coach Cowher's siren proclivities. It was then that my demon was exorcised. Jimmy hit the nail on the head calling Cowher's siren twisting similar to a child's use of a "Jack In The Box"! THAT WAS IT!!! Take a look at Cowher turning this siren crank and imagine him as a two-year-old waiting for that clown to pop out at any second! That's the look on Bill Cowher's face last night!!!

Thank you to the DVE Morning Show for clearing that up. As usual, you guys are on top of everything Pittsburgh. So now that we know why Bill Cowher did it, I thought it would be fun to look at some other jackasses er make that Jack In The Boxes (or is it Jacks In The Box?)


ABOVE: An old time Jack In The Box. Probably very similar to Mr. Bill's original one back in Crafton.


ABOVE: A very famous Jack who still resides primarily on the west coast. Rumor has it that Raleigh could be in line for one.


ABOVE: A demented, sinister Jack. Probably the stuff of a little Billy Cowher nightmare!

ABOVE: In its' pristine form, the Jack In The Box can be a humorous, jovial thing...so why do people have to mess with it?

ABOVE: Jack mixes it up with "The King". These were actually Halloween costumes. Not bad!


ABOVE: Any list of Jack In The Boxes would be incomplete without Barack Obama.
.

ABOVE: Here's a typical Pittsburgher's best Christmas gift for Bill Cowher!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PENGUINS, RED WINGS STEAM TOWARDS INEVITABLE TRAIN CRASH


Back in the 1800s, a railroad in Texas did a promotional stunt to promote ridership on their trains. Dubbed "The Crash at the Crush", two locomotives were intentionally planned to crash headlong into each other at full speed in the town of "Crush", Texas... sort of like what the Penguins and Red Wings are planning to do shortly in the Stanley Cup Finals. As you can imagine, this train wreck was eagerly anticipated and witnessed by thousands of Texans. More on that story later.

With the Penguins currently up three games to none in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes, they give every impression to me of a team that is on a mission. True, it's a "Race to four wins," as Dan Bylsma likes to say, but this team that right now more closely resembles a finely-tuned engine of an Indy car than a hockey club, would need a complete collapse in order for Carolina to move past them. I just don't see that happening.

Likewise for the Detroit Red Wings. While they've had a little more trouble dealing with the Chicago Black Hawks (they're up no 3-1 in that series) it's just as hard to imagine them bowing in their series as it would be for the Pens to lose theirs.

So let's do something that (horror of horrors) you never do in sports. Let's look ahead.

The Pens are a year older, wiser, better seasoned, more experienced and most importantly, they've been to the finals. I don't think you'll see Marc-Andre Fleury tripping as he comes out of the runway this time. That team was totally intimidated by the stage they were performing on last year and once they got their fears behind them, they played virtually even with Detroit after being totally dominated the first two games. But it was too late. They had already dug themselves too deep of a hole to extricate themselves against a veteran team like the Red Wings. That won't happen this year.

ABOVE: The Pens crashed and burned in the finals last year, but they'll use that loss, plus the defection of the loathsome Marian Hossa, to their benefit this time around.

The confidence this team is displaying right now is at an amazing level. They don't get rattled and crowd noise means virtually nothing to them. Detroit, of course, has no shortage of confidence either, so therein lies the reason why this year's Stanley Cup Finals could end up being one of the most anticipated series in the history of the game.


For the NHL, it has to be a dream-come-true: The same two teams that captivated the hockey world last year making it back for another go around. Only this time, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are scoring at a pace and are so red-hot that it boggles the imagination.

In addition, two hockey-crazy cities will once again be facing off against each other. On one side there will be the current reigning champions, on the other, the up-and-comers who could represent a dynasty-in-the-making the likes of which hasn't been seen since Wayne Gretzky was pulling on an Edmonton Oilers jersey. It will be "Hockeytown" versus "Hockeytahn". Octopi in Detroit versus legions of fans camped outside in Pittsburgh watching "Mario's T.V".

It is going to be exciting hockey, for sure, no matter what, but it may also turn into something of a surprise. The Penguins offense never clicked last year like it is now. Sidney was coming off a high ankle strain and wasn't up to his best. Meanwhile, Gino was fighting off a virus that left him almost invisible at times. The Red Wings may not realize it now, but they are hurtling full speed into the path of a juggernaut. They could end up as roadkill in a series that may surprise many outside of Pittsburgh. But for Penguin fans, their third overall Stanley Cup Championship and the first of this era will be viewed as one down and many more to go for Sid, Gino, M.A.F. and company.

Oh and that train wreck? Never happened. Incredibly, one locomotive, as it approached the other at full speed suddenly had its' boiler explode and it rained train debris all over the horrified crowd actually killing two spectators. What a complete disaster this stunt turned into for the railroad.


You can read into this analogy what you will.


ABOVE: The Detroit Red Wings may find themselves run-over in the finals...or even exploded for that matter. One thing we know, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Friday, May 22, 2009

FROM EVGENI...WITH LOVE!!!


ABOVE: Evgeni Malkin was sharpshooting last night as he scored a hat trick and took the overall scoring lead in the NHL for the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, spearheaded by their "Two-headed monster" of Crosby and Malkin, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in their best of seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes last night in a 7-4 win before a delirious Pittsburgh crowd and countless thousands more camped outside in front of "Mario's T.V".

In the last ten years of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in nine of those years the team that had the top two combined scorers in the playoffs went on to win the Stanley Cup. Right now, Sidney Cosby and Evgeni Malkin are leading that race and looking like a good bet to have another shot at Lord Stanley's hardware.
After being shut down for the most part in game one, Crosby roared out of the starting gate to open the scoring early with his 13th goal of the playoffs. This wild first period saw the Carolina Hurricanes eventually come back to take a 3-2 lead by the end of that period.

The Pens scored twice in the second while blanking Carolina including a back breaker by Chris Kunitz with just seven seconds to go that gave them the lead and ended a long drought for Crosby's line mate.

ABOVE: Vladimir and Natalia celebrate their son, Evgeni's, success. The couple has attained "rock star" status in the Burgh.

After allowing the tying goal early in the third by Carolina's Patrick Eaves, it became "Evgeni time" as Malkin scored his second and third goals of the game leading the crowd into a frenzied state of near-orgasmic proportions. Indeed, it was a picture of Malkin's parents, Vladimir and Natalia, now beloved fixtures at Mellon Arena, shown kissing each other on the Jumbotron in celebration of their son's hat trick, that ignited a celebration that could best be described as "Vintage Pittsburgh".

ABOVE: Mother Malkin is now even into face painting her son's #71 on her cheek.

The third Malkin goal was truly a classic as the big Russian took a blind backhand shot that beat an incredulous goalie, Cam Ward. Ward. Ward, who until now had been very strong throughout the playoffs, is now in the process of joining the ever-growing list of goaltenders who have been put through the Penguins meat grinder and emerged as hamburger. Of the 42 shots faced by Ward, Malkin had 8, Crosby 5 and Kunitz 4. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 28.

The Crosby-Malkin duo now has 23 goals (13 and 10) and the Pens are looking more and more like a team that is now hoping for a Detroit rematch. Of course right now to a man they would tell you that their only concern, as it should be, is this dangerous Carolina team. You can never look ahead beyond a team as skilled as Carolina, but the Penguins certainly brought them back down to Earth in these first two games.

The game got very chippy at the conclusion with Miroslav Satan, of all people, getting into a rare throw down along with several others, which was Carolinia's way of saying. "Don't worry Pittsburgh, we'll still show up for game three in our building."


Tyler Kennedy scored an empty-netter to put the cherry on top of the whipped cream in this one and end the scoring at 7-4. Game three will be played on Saturday night in Raleigh and the Pens will see an even more desperate Hurricanes team bolstered by their own very vocal crowd. A loss in game three would create an almost insurmountable hole for them so look for frenetic play in this one.


Detroit also leads their series against Chicago 2-0 with game 3 being played tonight.

ABOVE: No matter what language you may say it, Pittsburgh is in love with the Malkins.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

STEELERS SCORE TOUCHDOWN IN D.C.

ABOVE: The Pittsburgh Steelers scored their first touchdown of the year this morning as they landed in Washington D.C. for their scheduled rendezvous with President Barack Obama. Speculation is swirling that the "Jokemaker in Chief" is going to make some comments over James Harrison's skipping the photo op. Fortunately for all of Steeler Nation, Channel 4's Sally Wiggin will be broadcasting live reports all day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JAMES HARRISON JOINS SELECT COMPANY: TWICE AT LAST COUNT




ABOVE: James Harrison confronts his worst fear. This is really bad. BELOW: Mine, strangely enough, is falling off my roof as I clean out the gutters. (This isn't me by the way, just somebody else experiencing this nightmare).


NFL defensive MVP and Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker, James Harrison, claimed membership in two rapidly growing clubs this week. After first using the most incredibly-dumb excuse for not going to the White House (..."we only got invited because we won the SuperBowl, if Arizona would have won they would have invited them...") Harrison has now decided to apply the "I hate to fly" logo on his head as the true, underlying reason for "standing up" the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who, as you know, is also a black man.

ABOVE: Flying is apparently the only thing that intimidates James Harrison

You would think that James Harrison would have opted to drive to D.C. for a chance to meet the first black President in history, but what do we know? Maybe he's not smart enough to drive there? Harrison thus joins Joey Porter in the "All-Idiot Linebacker Club" as the second Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker to embarrass the club when they were invited to be honored at the White House.


ABOVE: Tony Kornheiser... Now this guy we can believe has a problem flying.

In addition to certifying himself as an idiot, Harrison now also gets to join the elite company of Tony Kornheiser (recently replaced by Jon Gruden on "Monday Night Football") and John Madden, recently retired broadcaster and former coach as those who claim that they are too intimidated to fly.

How many more millions will the Steelers have to guarantee Harrison in order for him to promise not to embarrass the organization on a national stage any more? Last year it was a domestic abuse issue, this year he's dissing the President. What next? When does it end??? If Harrison keeps this up, he could find himself playing in Miami too.

ABOVE: John Madden was afraid of falling out of the sky and going, "BOOM".