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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Save the Nailers

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> The chat is today at noon, usual time, usual place, usual weapons ordinances.

>> It’s ironic and unfortunate that, just as hockey is thriving in its second boom, just as the Pittsburgh area is No. 1 in the U.S. in TV ratings for NHL games, the Wheeling Nailers are being sold and might be getting moved.

I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of the franchise, its situation at the Wheeling Civic Center or what might be compelling the Brooks brothers to dump the team when they have so many other sports holdings, including a stake in the Texas Rangers. But I do know that there long has been a solid, if not overwhelming, base of support for a franchise that’s made it there for 20 years now. The Nailers are the only game in town, and that applies to their work in helping the community programs.

As you might guess, there’s a Save the Nailers Twitter account.

Could the Penguins get involved, given that this is their ECHL affiliate?

Or even the Pirates’ Bob Nutting, a lifelong resident of that area?

The reports last night made it sound too late, but that wasn’t certain. What is certain is that losing both of the ECHL’s franchises from our region — the historic Johnstown Chiefs, basis for the classic “Slap Shot” also were lost in the past decade — would be a blow for the entire hockey family here.

>> No ECHL franchise has sent more players to the NHL than Wheeling. The full list.


>> Marcus Gilbert might move to left tackle, as he told a national radio outlet. He said the Steelers’ coaches told him that during his exit interviews.

Assuming Gilbert works — shows up for meetings and stuff — and performs as he did down the stretch, that sounds like a worthwhile move. It’s the critical position in protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side, and it’s well past time the team found a younger player to handle it.

But you’d hope that doesn’t mean Max Starks is being ruled out. Been there, done that, and it wasn’t pretty.

>> Exceptional opportunity tonight for the Penguins at the Garden to get back that swagger they built up in late December by beating the Sabres, Blackhawks and Jets. Buffalo and Winnipeg aren’t great, obviously, but both were hot at the time. The Rangers are good and hot. And they’ve got Henrik Lundqvist.

The only negative in the current three-game winning streak is that, of 12 goals, all but one has been scored by either Evgeni Malkin or James Neal. That was Richard Park’s nice effort in Tampa.

More is needed.

Joe Starkey has a revealing column in today’s Trib about Matt Cooke, who unquestionably is one of those supporting guys who needs to produce way, way more than he has of late.

Pascal Dupuis is another. And that’s no knock. Dupuis was superb in effort and execution the other night against Carolina, but he hasn’t scored in nine games now.

>> I’ll be spending the later part of the afternoon with the Pitt basketball team, still 0-6 in the Big East with ESPN’s mega-production “Game Day” coming to the Pete on Saturday.

>> By the way, not sure how many would realize this, but the Pitt women also are 0-6 in the Big East, coming off that outrageous 120-44 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame a couple nights ago. Neat piece on Agnus Berenato’s reaction yesterday.

It has to end sometime, right?


  1. Leah Backus says:

    I can only wish I had a local team like the Nailers to watch play. If I want to see a live hockey game, I have to drive four hours north to St. Louis (which I am gladly doing to see the Pens play the Blues next Tuesday) or five hours west to see an Oklahoma City Barons game. Savannah? Really? Because we all saw how well hockey went over in Georgia. I’ve been to Wheeling…I really hope some solution is found to keep the team there because, yeah, there’s not much else going on there.

  2. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker


    8—Pirates Prospects

    Winter League Playoffs 1/18 — Hernandez Scores Lone Run, Moss Has Key RBI

    2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Arbitration Results

    9 Bucs Dugout

    The Ultimate Sports Social Media Job Contest

  3. JAL says:

    10 Rumbunter

    A Moment With Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle

    Yu Darvish – More Proof Of A Flawed League

    Put Your Money On Pirates Prospect Colton Cain

    Pittsburgh Pirates Bounceback Hopeful #11: Reliever Evan Meek

  4. JAL says:


    11 Orlando Sentinel

    Roberto Clemente legacy celebrated in Orlando exhibit,0,4597772.column

    12 Tacoma News Tribune

    Mariners take a chance on pitcher Oliver Perez

    13 New York Times

    Marty Springstead, Longtime Baseball Umpire and Supervisor, Dies at 74

    14 Grove City Allied News

    Former areas athletes set for induction to Mercer County Hall of Fame

    15 Austin Statesman
    Baseball notes: Rockies sign Moyer, 49

  5. JAL says:


    16 Bleacher Report

    Andrew McCutchen and the 7 Greatest 5-Tool Stars in Pirates History

    17 Puckett’s Pond

    Steve Pearce: Twins Non-Roster Invitee

    18 Fangraphs

    Joe Saunders, Mistakes & Hometown Discounts

  6. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    My Favorite Part of the Steelers 2011 Season

    Art Rooney Looking Back at 2011 and Forward to the Future

    -Steelers Depot

    Steelers Announce Future Contract Signings

    -Steelers Gab

    Allen or Lewis to Get a Shot to Start at CB Opposite Taylor in 2012?

  7. JAL says:

    WVU Blogs

    Metro News

    WVU Tops Marshall in Capital City Classic

    WV Illustrated

    Capital Classic Game Recap

    Kevin Noreen Makes Most of First WVU Start



    Malkin dominates, Penguins beat Hurricanes in shootout for third straight win.

  8. bdubb says:

    If Starks tore his ACL would he be ready to go by the first week? (Did he tear his ACL?)

  9. meglasdad says:

    How could the Nuttings help with the Nailers? They’re pouring all their money into the Pirates. Right?

  10. NMR says:

    Thanks, as always, JAL.

    #18 “Joe Saunders, Mistakes, and Hometown Discounts”…very interesting read.

    Wonder if Neal was one of those East Coast GM’s offering multi-year deals?

  11. Jandy says:

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m counting on the Pens to do just that tonight at MSG. Time for the supporting cast to make a splash.
    I sure hope something is done to keep the Nailers in Wheeling. Johnstown lost the Chiefs. I went to several games there. Had a good time even if they lost. Nutting? I highly doubt he could help, he can’t do anything for the Pirates!

  12. JAL says:


    I found #18 interesting too. Shows that just offering a better contract doesn’t mean you get the player.

  13. Applechaz says:

    Having lived in Wheeling for 9 years and watched many Nailer Games I hope they do not get moved. A Rich history of hockey in Wheeling. I also grew up an hour or so south of Johnstown and as a youth we would go see the Johnstown Jets play every year when it was Boy Scout night. I still remember the arena, the walkways with all the trophies and always what a special night that was. Sad to see these local minor league teams leaving.

  14. JAL says:

    Article on Pittsburgh Media from NetNews Check, about the Trib and other media in Pittsburgh catching up in digital

  15. Drew71 says:

    Let’s talk about soccer.

  16. JAL says:


    Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 1. Winning goal set up on beautiful pass from Lionel Messi to Eric Abidal

  17. aglebagel says:

    Wow, Gameday is at Pitt this week, huh? I wonder why it is that the football show waits until the week of to determine the location and the basketball show schedules it all out at the beginning of the season. I was in the crowd of the football version when it came to BYU a couple years ago, and it was actually a lot of fun.

    Speaking of fun, time to check StubHub to see if I can grab a couple of Pens-Rangers tickets for tonight…anyone else going?

  18. CWalton_67 says:

    Did I really read that you are advocating Bob Nutting get involved with the Nailers, Dejan? Someone please tell me I read that wrong, please. Bob Nutting getting his hands on another pro sports franchise would be way worse than having it move to Savannah. At least they have great sweet tea and a really cool St Paddy’s day parade there.

    Maybe we should get @BizNasty2.0 involved in trying to save the Nailers. Or at least come to town and put a good check on DK for even suggesting such nonsense.

    Bob Nutting in charge of a hockey team….

    How about Dave Littlefield as GM? Maybe we get Derek Bell to play some defense. He’d be a shutdown defenseman.

    Good. Grief.


  19. January 19

    30 days until Pirate Spring Training


  20. Naje says:

    @DK– surely you meant ordnances (or ordnance) and not ordinances… bit of a difference between the two… made me chuckle thinking you may have done it on purpose…

  21. JohnS says:

    Gilbert to LT means no Starks next year. Starks just isn’t a Tomlin guy I guess. No doubt they will waste a roster spot on Willie Colon again next year. As long as Tomlin is coach Colon, Moore, Leftwhich and Batch will have a place to play.

  22. meglasdad

    “How could the Nuttings help with the Nailers? They’re pouring all their money into the Pirates. Right?”

    When I laugh out loud at my desk, co-workers or visitors in the hall think there’s something wrong with me. Please cease making comments like the above!

    Although . . . . . . following Waltie’s suggestion, I would look forward to Dave Littlefield paying big bucks to bring back Dave “the Hammer” Schultz to skate on a line with Derek Bell. Derek Bell could tie up his houseboat on the river right outside the Civic Center in Wheeling where the Nailers play.

    I have enjoyed taking my youngest daughter to Nailer games. I have a cowbell here in my office that I picked up at a Nailers’ game: I always take it when I do my stint ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas.

    Don’t let them go, Bob Nutting!! Darn, if we hadn’t traded Nyger Morgan, he could skate for the Nailers in the off-season.

  23. CWalton_67 says:

    @Groat- totally forgot about Nyjer. He’d be a great addition to the Nutting led Nailers.

  24. PetroSteel says:

    Neal,Frank and Bob, DO SOMETHING FOR GODS SAKE!!! Mr. Groat2Maz2Strangeglove is telling you that spring training training is only 30 days away. I know you have invested a tremendous amount of money in the draft. I love the direction. But for gods sake, you can’t expect us to go through another ridicules season of loosing. Ok, if you need some help, we need a 1B. A very good one. The best available in free agency not called Prince Fielder (because I want to be realistic) about your limitations. And we need another front line starting pitcher. Maybe even a number 3 starter (because, again…I want to be realistic). BUT, come on guys, this is ridicules to put us through this again.

    You think they read this blog??? :) DK, can you please forward it because WE ARE’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! Who’s with me???

  25. JMB says:

    Fausto is really 31!

    When do we find out JT is really 27?

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