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Labor Log: Pens-Flyers dynamic, and Crosby warns against disillusioning fans.

A cheery Saturday morning to the dear readers, though a loss by this blog author’s beloved Everton to a Reading in the EPL has started this weekend sour.

Fortunately, one of Chipped Ice’s best beat buddies, Frank Seravalli, provided hockey fans with a glimmer of hope with this column: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/flyers/20121116_Is_Flyers_Snider_helping_thaw_NHL_talks_.html

Interesting, eh?

 

• Addressing the possibility of a Flyers-Penguins pairing:

Do not discount it.

As noted in the link above the Penguins and Flyers have worked together before, most recently in trying to steer the NHL from separating them in any realignment format.

The franchises have a lot in common than being at the opposite ends of the Commonwealth Cold War, though. Specifically, the franchises are large- and small-market brothers when it comes to providing players’ with first-rate facilities, planting community roots by ways of youth hockey and, most notably, placing players and players’ families above all else.

Ask Chris Pronger. Ask Zbynek Michalek. Both men would cite personal examples of the regard with which they hold the Flyers and Penguins, even though neither is likely to play another game for their former clubs.

Pronger will be part of the Flyers family even though neurological issues will keep him on the payroll though the many years of his contract for which he will never dress in a game.

Michalek was told by the Penguins during Day 1 of the NHL entry draft that a deal was in place to send him back to Phoenix, but he was given the option of staying in Pittsburgh. The Penguins targeted the Coyotes for a Michalek deal because they knew he was not comfortable in Pittsburgh, and they knew he would have re-signed with Phoenix in July 2010 had the Coyotes had the money to keep him.

When it comes to running their business, the Flyers and Penguins are a lot more alike than fans of the teams may want to admit.

A big difference is the Flyers have far more resources than the Penguins. It is all about corporate ownership, and the Flyers have that going for them. The Penguins have Ron Burkle as a majority co-owner. He is a multibillionaire, but franchise is run by the money it generates, not his personal wealth.

CEO David Morehouse and his staff have modernized the Penguins infrastructure and outreach so as to generate revenue better than at any time in franchise history. However, the revenue generated goes back into the team, mostly at the hockey operations level, where GM Ray Shero is authorized to spare no expense to chase the Cup yearly.

Ed Snider, the Flyers’ chairman, has never shied from spending on his club in an effort to touch the Stanley Cup. There are reasons free agents consider the Flyers on a consistent basis, and it is because they like playing for an ownership group that spends to win.

There is a reason Sidney Crosby, as a story in the Sunday Tribune-Review will note, never wanted to test the NHL free-agent market. He will not find a better situation than the one he has with the Penguins, who spend to keep their own.

Burkle and fellow majority co-owner Mario Lemieux have told Morehouse and Shero that keeping Evgeni Malkin is THE priority for the franchise going forward. Whatever the new CBA permits a player to receive on a veteran free-agent contract, Malkin will have the chance to command a blank check in that regard. The Penguins envision a day when four retired numbers hang from their rafters: Lemieux’s 66, Crosby’s 87, Malkin’s 71 and, yes it will happen eventually, Jaromir Jagr’s No. 68.

Of course, to ensure that, they need some luck from the hockey gods, and a system that allows them to pay Crosby and Malkin going forward.

At this point in a lockout that is now into a third month the best system for the NHL is whatever one gets the Flyers and Penguins back on the ice, players hating one another, fans wanting to yell and scream at each other, cities ready to rumble.

It is a better world when the Flyers and Penguins are at odds because that means it is a world with NHL hockey being played.

It is not unfathomable that these Commonwealth cousins would make nicey-nice around the holidays to get back to that more traditional rendering of their relationship.

 

• As noted above, there is a Crosby piece coming Sunday that might interest his fans. Without giving too much away, enjoy this teaser quote to hold you over until just around midnight:

“100 percent it’s concerning to everyone; I think ultimately, whether you’re an owner or a player, this game is successful, yes, because we have passionate owners and players – but if people don’t show up to the games then you’re probably not owning a team or having a career playing hockey,” Crosby said. “It’s important what the fans think. If they’re frustrated they have every right to be frustrated. I would be, too, as a fan.”

The Sunday piece looks at the unique role Crosby finds himself in during this lockout.

 

• Lastly, the NHL and NHLPA have started talking. Not negotiating, and no bargaining sessions are planned. Do not hold your breath.

 

Cheers,

Rossi

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Skip says:

    Rossi – if the Pens ever retire Jagr’s number and hang it from the rafters, it may become the first time in sports history a player gets booed during a ceremony honoring his number retirement.

    I’m surprised you actually believe this organization would retire Jagr’s number when so many of the team’s fans dislike the guy.

  2. Travis says:

    Skip…

    99% of those fans, after considering all the great moments Jaromir Jagr brought the franchise, will applaud like they should, and ulitmately, will. There will probably always be a few that will hate him, really for no reason than just something to complain about.

    Retiring #68 will finally put the anti-Jagr talk to rest. And it’s about time.

  3. Jody says:

    The article you linked is VERY interesting. Not just because it gives a glimpse into the back room politics behind the scenes in the organization that is the NHL, but gives us fans a reason to hope.

    Also, Skip, I respectfully disagree. I think a few years after the sting of this past springs series against the Flyers fades, especially if the Pens can give the Flyers a couple of good spankings in playoff series to come, Jagr will again be regarded and respected as one of the all-time Penguin greats.

  4. Nick says:

    5 numbers…….

  5. Rege says:

    How can you be a Pens beat writer and not know there are currently TWO jerseys hanging in the rafters? That would make 5 after 87, 71, and 68.

  6. Babsy says:

    I agree with Skip. The fans don’t like him and for “good reason”. If your spouse treats you right for 20 years, then leaves you for someone else, especially if that someone else is your worst enemy,(and rubs it in), all the great moments of the past mean absolutely nothing anymore! Absolutely nothing!!!

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