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Wakeup Call: A center towers over Centre


Brief and to the Point …

>> My Wednesday column calls Sidney Crosby’s apparently imminent return an absolute must for the Penguins in the playoffs. It’s frankly surprised me to have heard so many in recent weeks voice the contrary.

>> First couple of paragraphs of the column reference the Mario Lemieux statue unveiling today.

Those interested can watch the ceremony live on Root Sports at noon.

For those who haven’t seen the leaked pics on the Web of the model, here’s the video of the goal for the moment being captured forever …


Say what you will about the goal choice. I’ll wait to hear what all concerned have to say. Obviously, there were many, many far bigger goals in Mario’s career than this one on Dec. 20, 1988, against the Islanders and poor defensemen Richard Pilon and Jeff Norton. But you have to love it for sheer symbolism of execution. A lot of fans will recall Lemieux only from his “second” career, during which he was primarily a passer or a bad-angle shooter. The Lemieux of his prime was this guy: The best one-on-one player on the planet with the best finishing touch on the planet.

I wasn’t nuts about this model when I first saw it, but it’s growing on me. Really is. And I can’t wait to experience it in person today, same as that special Sunday outside PNC Park when Bill Mazeroski’s statue was unveiled. Great stuff.

Let’s give it a chance.

>> The massive Toronto media corps will be on hand all day, with the Leafs here tonight. It will be fun, with the Leafs scheduled to have their morning skate at the same time of the unveiling, to see how many blow it off to go outside and watch.

>> Sure sounds like Neil Walker is next on the Pirates’ radar, according to this plenty informative piece from our Rob Biertempfel in Bradenton.

Any contract parameter suggestions from you?

Bear in mind, yet again, the team owns Walker’s rights the next four years regardless.

>> Pitt fares better in its first Big East tournament game than it did the previous two years, as you can read in John Grupp’s coverage from the Garden. Next up, today at 2, are the Hoyas, another team the Panthers have handled well.

Liked this quote from Jamie Dixon: “We’re still around, and we’re getting better.”

>> Finally, as a little bonus on this special day, here is my personal greatest Mario moment …


It was Lemieux’s last home game before retiring in 1997, and he knew it. You had to be in that building to believe the complete inevitability that he would score on Garth Snow in the closing minutes there. Nothing like it once he did.

Turn the sound up as you watch.


  1. I had a gut feeling about something after I read the column and went and checked some stats. You claim that the “firing line” has generated the bulk of the offense. This *was* true earlier this season, but hasn’t been true since at least February 1. Since then, 63% of the goals scored have been by someone other than Neal, Malkin or Kunitz. Even if you don’t count the goals that they assisted on, secondary lines have still provided the majority of the scoring since 2/1.

    If you look at this team objectively, not comparing them to other Penguins teams, but to other teams that have won the Cup, I think they stand up very well just as they are. If there is a weakness, it’s not lack of scoring depth. It’s a somewhat weak D and a possibly overworked goalie.

    In fact, I will stick my neck out and say you have it exactly backwards. This team *needs* Letang more than it needs Sid. He does so much more than serve as a cog in the defensive system. The power play has been terrible (again) since he’s been gone. Also, I don’t forget that the losing streak happened last time he was out.

    So, would it be great to have Sid back for the playoffs? Duh. Who wouldn’t want one of the best players in the world on their team? But I think it’s a stretch to say they *can’t* win the Cup without Sid.

  2. I think Walker needs to have a solid season in 2012 before trying to sign him long-term. His advanced stats like WAR aren’t great and he took a step back in 2011. If he wasn’t a local kid, do you think there’d be the same push to sign him?

  3. Hello, just saying I love the blog and columns. I do have to say if it was up to me I would have chosen a different pose for the statue like hoisting the cup or waving goodbye when he retired.

    DK: Welcome, Brandon, and thanks!

  4. In response to Leah:
    So 37% of the scoring comes from 3 of the 20 skaters? I think to say that isn’t the bulk of the offense is a difference in semantics at best.
    And as far as Letang vs. Crosby, you really think the power play wouldn’t improve more with a healthy Crosby than with a healthy Letang?
    Hopefully both are ready for the playoffs, but if I had to choose just one, I’ll take the best player in the league.

  5. JAL’s Give Me Happiness Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    5 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

  6. 7 Rumbunter

    The Last Time The Pirates Signed A Star To A Big Contract

    Getting Real – Matt Hague

    8 Bucs Dugout

    Why The Pirates Probably Shouldn’t Extend Neil Walker

    9 WHY GAVS

    Should the Pirates want to extend Neil Walker?

    10 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Andrew McCutchen’s Extension: Details, analysis, thoughts


    11 NY Times

    Not the Kind of Mark a Pitcher Wants

    Pirates Begin to See What They Have in Igarashi

    12 Pittsburgh Sports Report

    ESPN’s Buster Olney on the Pirates

    13 Columbus Dispatch

    Baseball notebook: Injuries telling Guillen it’s time to retire

    14 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Ramirez ready to go to work

    15 NY Daily News

    Yankees’ CC Sabathia happy with command of pitches in first spring start

  8. Steelers Blogs

    19 Behind the Steel Curtain

    How Many Saints are Left in the NFL?

    NFL Draft Interviews – James Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada

    NFL First Round Mock Draft – Steelers Go Lineman for Fourth Straight Year

    20 Steelers Depot

    - Roethlisberger Doesn’t want to See Wallace Go, Hopes Haley Keeps Skeleton of Offense

    21 Steelers Gab

    Tomlin Comments on the Release of Ward, Farrior and Smith

  9. I have two very special Mario goals. The one he scored against the Nordiques when he stole the puck from the defenseman, who hooked and grabbed and hooked and grabbed for all his worth from his own blue line, only to watch Mario score. An amazing feat of strength and skill. The other was when Mario threw the puck into Raymond Bourque’s skates only to emerge behind Bourque with the puck to score. To do that against one of the greatest defensemen of all time.
    Hell, anytime he had the puck it was going to be memorable. On practically every breakaway he would glide across the crease until the goalie had to move and that 5-hole would just barely open, and boom, goal. I’m so glad to have experienced his entire career.


    26 Pensburgh

    When Sidney Crosby returns, what does it mean for Jordan Staal?


    27 Sky Sports

    Gunners restore pride,,11065_3475725,00.html

    28 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 6th March, 2012

  11. Title song Give Me Happiness. James Levy and the Blood Red Rose 2012 James Levy is a singer-songwriter from Vermont and Bood Red Rose is Allison Pierce of the Pierce Sisters

  12. Leah ~ I’m with you on Sid/Letang 100%. I’ve been preaching that for some time now. Do I want Sid back? Heck yeah, who wouldn’t? But this team has been scoring without Sid, without Letang, they struggle, especially against the BETTER teams, like the Rangers, Philly, etc. He’s not a player they can replace by just inserting someone else, as he does so much.

    DK ~ Loved the video of your favorite Mario Moment. Thanks, you made me cry! (Good tears, of course).

  13. RE: Neil Walker ~ I don’t know enough to comment on contracts, but keep it coming guys, I enjoy learning from all of you. :)

  14. I have to agree with Dave J above. Those were my 2 favorite Mario goals as well. I can also recall one vs Washington that was pretty sick too (I believe during yet another 5 point night).

    Congrats Mario!! You were my favorite athlete growing up and that is amazing b/c I didn’t even watch hockey until you came along. I actually got my parents to go to a few games just so I could see the Pens, and we lived 2 hours from the Burgh

    I wish someone would show the 10-8 playoff win over Philly when Mario had 5 goals and 3 assists. One of the great games of all time

  15. I disagree that Cup is a pipe dream w/o Sid. In fact, I think Kris Letang is more vital to Pens Cup chances than Sidney Crosby is. I think this for a few reasons: first the power play w/o Letang will take a nose dive. It is extrememly important for this team to generate offense on special teams. Letang is the driving force behind the Pens’ number 5 power play. No one can replace his skillset on this team. Period. Plus, I am not entirely sure putting 87/71 on the same PP unit is in the best interest of the Pens. Geno defers to Sid too much. He respects him too much. This leads to a lot of people not shooting. addition, his defense has been incredibly consistent this year and he has helped anchor a defensice corps that is in flux. Finally, I think that Jordan Staal has made it clear that he can provide offense as a second line center. 71, 29, 58: those are the irreplaceable players for a Cup run next year. I know many people who disagree w/ my assesment point to ’09 an how Sid and Geno each stood out in half the series. I would like to point out that in ’09 we never had a wing with the talent of Neal. Also, Staal was not producing offensively at nearly this level. If we cannot stop an opposing team and we cannot acore power play goals, this playoffs will be a short one. Letang is key to both of those.

  16. I hope they get the date right on the statue.

  17. I still have my ticket stub for that playoff game against the Flyers in ’97. I attended with my brother. When Mario scored that goal, I exploded from my seat at the top of Section C at the near-left corner of the arena (camera view). I turned to see Iceburgh directly to my right and gave him a ‘high five.’

    Seizing the moment I shot down the long stairway and took off my hat. I flung it toward the ice only to see it hit the top of the glass and slide down into the first row.

    No matter. It was probably the only one-goal hat trick ever, and I was there to witness it.

    For the sheer drama, the magic, the celebration and the emotion and the tears, I know in my heart that that goal and the feeling it gave me and everyone else who was in attendance that night would never, ever be topped. Nor forgotten.

  18. Dave G, you are giving me goosebumps! Or should I say Mariobumps? ;)

  19. Walker scratched from today’s game, lower back tightness, out 2 to 3 days as precaution

  20. @Brian Leary ~ if I remember correctly, Sid has not helped the power play. Especially when Geno is on at the same time. It only makes it a mess.

  21. WOW!

    Does anyone see Michael J. Fox or Christopher Lloyd around?

    I have just lost a half hour of my life watching and re-living Mario goals, starting with DK’s favorite above. I couldn’t stop! That was a half hour of life well spent!

    Thanks, Dejan!

  22. I was reminded yesterday that this is the first BE tourney game that Pitt’s Seniors have won. Weird.

  23. Thanks for the video Dejan. So many great memories of la magnifique’s career but something special about that one. Is there another player in the history of the game that anticipated as well as Lemieux? The reaction of Lemieux himself and the fans still brings shivers even after all these years.

    Not sure if anyone knows if the ceremony will be broadcast on the web for viewing shamelessly at work, but I welcome any suggestions.

    One thing I have not heard any mention of is how sound both Lovejoy and Strait were last game. I am not trying to say either can replace Letang, but the D overall played soundly. Strait was crisp with his puck movement and positionally strong.

  24. ummm….the powerplay improved from last year when we added Sullivan, so I don’t think finding a relacement for Tanger will be that difficult. i’m not saying Sullivan isn’t a good player, but with the decline in penalties, it just isn’t as big a part of the game in 2012 as it was 1-2 years ago.

    tanger is a #1 defenseman, i’m not saying he isn’t valuable, but defensemen are the organizational strength and DK is correct in saying defense, for the most part is a System. Getting Sid back might increase our offense by a goal a game (admittedly just a guess). Do you think Tanger’s replacement will cost us more than a goal a game?

  25. Try to make this quick. My brothers and I, all lifelong hockey players, would get together and take the old man to dinner and a game during the Christmas break. That year my brother Gary and I were going back and forth about which game to pick and decided it would be easiest for everyone if we went to the Toronto game after Christmas. Fast forward to reading somewhere, I think it was the NY Post, but I read of Mario’s return, call my brother and we are shouting into the phone to each other. Talk begins to circulate that Mario’s looking at Christmas time for his return. We dream. And dream and dream. And then it happens, “Mario will be making his return, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, December __. I couldn’t wait for the school semester to end. The night of the game, we head out, I don’t think any of us could eat and then to the game. It was the first time we ever sat in on warm-ups. I went to get beers and there was not one person in the concession area. The attendants couldn’t believe it. Game starts, first shift, Lemieux sets up Jagr, I believe it was. Place goes nuts. We hadn’t even sat in our seats, but the play was at the other end. 2nd period starts, with Penguins coming our way. I’ll never forget this: Jagr comes streaking down the right side, hits the breaks, every one keeps moving forward, and then you see it, Lemieux open on the left (right in front of us no less) Jagr hits him perfectly, Mario one times it, “It’s in the gooooooaaaalllll! In our section it was like one huge rugby pile, everyone piling on top of each other, beers flying, guys running up and down the aisle. I could barely speak for a week after that game. Best sore throat I ever had AND I still have the ticket stub. Man has our little town of Pittsburgh been blessed sports wise.

  26. You nailed this one, Dejan. It’s preposterous to suggest the Pens can win the Cup without Crosby. Teams don’t win Stanley Cups with one scoring line. Look at how deep the Red Wings, Bruins and Rangers are. Look at those rosters, up and down. There’s no way these Penguins can match up with them in a 7-game series without Sid (and Letang, for that matter – not sure why this debate has become an either/or discussion.)

  27. Jack, yes, I do believe the absence of Letang could cost us a goal a game. But that’s just me. The last few games we’ve had, we’ve not played a high caliber team. Come Rangers, Philly, Boston, Devils, we’ll see how it goes if Tanger is still out.

    We’re to have 64 degrees and sunshine today…heat wave =)

  28. I assume everyone knows that it’s going to be 66 degrees when the statue is unveiled. And how the media, OK – Paul Steigerwald, will completely beat that into the ground to the point of nausea. I’m so happy the game is not on ROOT tonight.

  29. Okay, here’s my take on the relative importance of Crosby and Letang…nevermind, DK and Scott summed it up perfectly.

  30. The perfect phrase to describe the one and only, Mario Lemieux. “Complete inevitability”. Well done, sir.

  31. scapper, so you think they are both needed for a legitimate cup run?

    How are you today, friend? =)

  32. Thanks for posting that 1997 Mario goal. It was a great way to start my day. Still brings tears to this grown mans eyes. Thanks DK. Love the blog and columns.

  33. Not qualified to comment much on hockey, but Jandy has come a long way, calling a cop a friend.

  34. Lucky, hey good morning! I learn a lot around here ;)

  35. I’ve learned a lot, too. Especially about hockey. People on this blog are patient, so it’s a good place to learn. No condemnation for not knowing something. (Romans 8:1)

  36. Lucky, and I’m picking up more on baseball. Love this blog. DK does a wonderful job with columns, and the posters here are the best anywhere.

  37. Unfortunately, being at work, I am not able to view the videos posted here. But I will throw one of my favorite goals into the mix! Against the Flyers when Mario picked Hextall’s pocket for the wrap around goal…which was the same game Hextall went after Robbie Brown – just the sum total of that game was one of the greatest ever.

    I can also remember attending Pens’ games pre-Mario (i.e. coming to watch Gretzky), sitting in D9 just so we could get a glimpse of Mike Lange coming down from the booth between periods, givings us a “Hey, fellas!” as we peered through the gate. THEN the rumors began…who is this Mario guy? Little did ANYONE know, eh?

  38. Well, first of all, I assume everyone who remembers my “cop” line knows that it was a joke. I am certainly no cop. And if I were, the only thing I’d have cited DK for was his over-exuberance surrounding the Kovalev signing last year.

    How am I today? This is one of the very few days in the past 25 years when I regret that I’m not still living in the ‘Burgh, because I know I would be standing on Centre Avenue at noon overcome with emotion.

    I can keep sports and athlete adulation in proper perspective until it comes to 66, then I lose all sense of perspective. My lord, the memories that guy has provided…and I’m not just talking all the great goals and passes and comebacks. It’s the memory of focusing on just him on every shift. Watching his entire “game,” especially live, remains the greatest thing I have seen in sports.

    Favorite Mario moment? I lucked out back in ’93 and bought two tix to a March 2 game at the old Spectrum. Bought the tix before the Hodgkin’s news hit. He ended up making his comeback that night, and I was there.

    As the Pens took the ice, the Philly fans, who had been brutal to Lemieux his entire career, would not let the anthem start because they could not contain their appreciation for 66. Yes, Philly fans. It was thunderous. Finally, Mario, with a swatch of hair missing on the back of his head from six weeks of radiation treatments, lifted his stick in an appreciative salute. Most magical live moment I’ve seen in a lifetime of going to games and the only time I was moved to tears at a game. (Okay, FELT like crying when Andy Van Slyke looked at strike 3 after missing a pennant-clinching homer by about 12 feet.)

  39. Here’s my suggestion for the Walker extension; dont do it unless it is team friendly or he has a huge break out season.

    I am a huge fan of NW. But for the basic economic structure for this team, it may be better to go year to year instead of a long team deal. Neal is somewhat of a late bloomer to the game and is not a superstar type player, like AMac was.

    If he’s willing to take 5 years and $20-25 Million, sign him.

  40. @Lucky- I agree, hockey is not my game. DK talks hockey and I get all confused. Though I am trying to catch on. I understand the basics…..but he and some others get real in-depth. I like it.

  41. Jandy,

    Only 70 degrees and partly cloudy here.

    Not saying they don’t need Tanger, I’m just saying if you had to pick only one for a run to the Cup, most would pick a healthy Sid over Letang. 87 is a transcendent, once in a generation player who immediately makes 71, the best player in the game currently, the second best player on his own team. Letang is an All-star. There is a BIG difference.

    Plus, i really don’t think Letang’s absense costs us a goal a game, really. I like him too, alot, but a goal a game??

  42. DK: Thanks for the videos. The second one gave me chills to watch.

  43. For those who did not get a chance to see Mario from day one…All I can tell you is that he was/is without a doubt the greatest hockey player that ever lived. No question about it.

    I like but don’t love the statue. I think maybe having him hold the cup over his head would have been better…

    Walker. I love you man, But, I think we should wait another year and see how he progresses.

    Letang or Crosby. Honestly, I think they really need both to win the cup. Even if you think back to the great Pens Cup team’s when Mario played. There were many very close games. We need them both to win the cup.

  44. Milo, no matter what the actual temperature is, I guarantee you that everyone there will swear it was 66 degrees, especially Steiggy.

  45. Petro – It goes without saying, but I agree that Mario was/is the greatest hockey player ever to play the game…imagine: no back problems, no Hodgkins, etc.! WOW!

    I was fortunate enough to work for a brief time at the Civic Arena and got PAID to watch Lemieux…

    So many memories running through my mind right now – and I am still stuck in Central PA!! Arrrggghhh… I need to get back to the ‘Burgh!!

  46. If walker gives the Tabata discount, yes, sign him yesterday. But I doubt he will be a poorly represented as Jose was. i mean, wow, what a steal by the old PBC.

    if not, no rush. Let’s see if Walker is the real deal

  47. In case anyone else is stuck at work or out of town like I am, you can watch the unveiling live at

  48. Couple of stories in the morning links on whether they should sign Walker long term-post 7

  49. Scapper ~ well, that settles that, you’re not a cop, you’re ok man ;)
    And thanks for sharing all that. As far as I’m concerned, Mario *IS* the best of all time, as no one else had to endure what he did, health and team-wise, and score and dominate the way he did.

    Jack ~ 65 here, we’re gaining on you!

    Kevin, you were fortunate indeed. Central PA? Whereabouts?

  50. Petro ~ both Sid and Tanger? Well, can’t beat that!

  51. Jandy –

    The bustling metropolis of Newville, PA where our SECOND stop light was installed about a year ago!

    Did ya ever wake up and ask, “How did I end up HERE?” Happens to me all the time.

  52. Hey Kevin, hubby and I go to Carlisle at least twice a year to the Car Swap Meets at the fair grounds. You’re not far from there. Yeah, you gotta move closer to the Burgh ;)

  53. Jandy –

    Ahhhh…the Carlisle Fairgrounds! I lived not far from there when I originally moved back to PA from NC..

    And believe me, the SECOND an opportunity arises for a move back, I am THERE!

  54. Great ceremony, love the statue. Go Pens!

  55. The statue looks pretty cool. I can’t wait to see it in person. And I hope I get to see 87 when I get inside the building.

  56. I wish I could have been there…bummer!

  57. And right on cue, Mike Lange said it was 66 degrees. And that’s just fine coming from him.

  58. Hope all who saw it LOVED it…yet another example of Mike Lange’s incredible sense of timing – Can’t wait to watch the replay.

  59. I really hope I get a chance to see Sid play when I get to my first game at Consol against the Devils later on this month. I’ll definitely be taking pics of the Mario statue.

  60. I hope pictures of this statue do NOT do it justice.

    When I saw pictures of Maz’s statue it was GREAT! And seeing it in person just made it better.

    I look forward to viewing Mario’s in person and hope it inspires me then.

    Remember: Bob Errey made the pass to Mario for this goal.

  61. A homer for Petey Alvarez! It’s about time. Let’s see if he can hit one when it counts.

  62. Kenerdivanis ~ I hope he play sooner, and when you go, he’s awesome :)

    G2M2S ~ Don’t remind Errey, it wil just go to his head!

  63. Just had to pull rank and chime in as post No. 66 on this day. Sorry!

  64. The good job you do here, DK, you don’t have to pull rank, but that guarantees it ;)
    How good does that statue look?????

  65. @Dejan – I think you’re afforded the right to pull rank today.

  66. Just curious- are Alvarez’s ears “tucked” or “untucked” today?

  67. Is this Pedro’s first game??

  68. Ryan

    No, his 3rd of the spring

  69. DK-Pretty cool General.

  70. Thanks JAL, I haven’t seen a thing on him yet.

  71. Not after the statue was unveiled….take my mom to a drs appt. And…..
    the car temp readout said……66.

  72. Just saw a picture of Mario’s statue.

    I was thinking how cool it would have been if Bob Errey was standing behind and to the right when the picture was taken…

  73. I have to correct the poster who said that the Pens only have one scoring line. Again, while that was true early in the season, since February 1, scoring by lines 2-4 has heated up significantly. Also, statistical analysis shows the Penguins dead middle of the pack in terms of the percentage of goals scored by their top line (although they are third in terms of the percentage of goals scored by their top scorer, Geno). This team can score from pretty much anywhere, at any time, by any player. The one thing they **haven’t** been able to do is score reliably on the power play without Letang in the lineup.

    Ideally, the Pens have them both, but if I have to choose, I still choose Letang.

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