This is a strange Stanley Cup Final.
At first, it felt kind of weird because the Sharks were in it for the first time, then there’s the Matt Murray is the next Cam Ward/Patrick/Ken Dryden oddness to it, and then there’s absurdly awesome Thornton and Burns beards?
While these things are unique unto themselves, none and all of that casts the weird that I’m picking up from this Cup Final. So what could it be then? I’ve seen sooooooo much hockey that I find it off-putting when I can’t understand why this series is weird . What could possibly then make me feel weird about this edition of the thing that I’ve watched over and over and over and over in my life?
It turns out to be this:
Okay, no big deal, @flyerfansindc and @Fiveonthefly and I are pretty objective hockey type people. The three of us trading a couple of words of sympathy towards the Penguins isn’t too alarming. But then there was this:
JESUS TAP DANCING CHRIST!!! IT IS TIME TO PANIC PEOPLE!!!
And there we have it! This is the strange vibe that this series has been infecting all of us with: we do not vehemently, viscerally, and violently hate the Penguins!
How on Earth did this happen?
The worst part is that it is true. While I still very much want the Sharks to win tonight, I find myself feeling sympathetic – dare I say, “liking” – some of the Penguins. No, I’m serious. I would genuinely love it if Phil Kessel won the Conn Smythe. I truly admire and am jealous of the speed/alley-oop game that Penguins are executing. And you know what, Mike Sullivan is an exceptional coach who I’ve admired ever since I saw his USA Hockey videos (fyi, this video is an hour long but it is educational af).
It was a very unsettling feeling to not know what was weirding me out about this Cup Final, but it is even more unsettling to know that I/we have become Penguin sympathizers. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome but worse because instead of masks, our captors’ leader has a patchy beard and an odd affinity towards mayo.
It’s almost as if this Stanley Cup is Inception, and Crosby and Malkin are on the third dream level in our brains replacing our glorious Tasty Kake, soft pretzel, cheesesteak memories with a horrible sandwich with fries that the bread can’t support because it’s absorbed way too much coleslaw juice from the pound of cabbage that sits on top of the already too large of quantity of fries.
The Penguins will probably win the Cup if not tonight, then on Wednesday. They can have their championship but I refuse to let them win the metal war. So, while this rendition of Penguins may not be filled with the absolute worst “yinzers” of all time, here’s a list of the most hated Penguins of all time to reinvigorate our natural, and just dislike for the Pittsburgh hockey club:
1) The Penguin
The Penguin, as a character/villain is great. Not only that, Danny DeVito as The Penguin is greater. However, The Penguin is literally a “super villain,” and therefore, automatically a bad guy who we should hate. Plus, when Batman Returns came out in 1992 this image gave me bad dreams.
2) Darius Kasparaitis
Just look at this jerk. I don’t even hold it against him for giving Lindros a concussion (Eric had his head down and there is no way the much shorter Kasparaitis should be able to deliver a Rule 48 hit if Eric was protecting himself). What bothers me about Kasparaitis (and Richard Pilon and Bryan Marchment) is hits like the one we see above. I don’t how or why but the 90’s allowed a predator like Kasparaitis to “hip check” opponents with submarine, knee exploding attacks. I’m all for a physical game, but you hit people shoulder to shoulder. Going after players’ knees is disgraceful.
3) Alexi Kovalev
Kovalev was never a dirty player and he never ran his mouth. The only thing the dude did was just friggin snipe. It always seemed like whenever the Penguins scored a big goal against the Flyers, Kovalev was the trigger man. Watching him with the puck on his stick for the Penguins invoked more fear in me than the above image of Danny DeVito as The Penguin.
4) Dennis Bonvie
Look, I get it. All of the teams had enforcers, but I really hated Dennis Bonvie. To his credit, Bonvie played the role of the heal to a T. I literrally have no memories of this face puncher not punching faces. Rob Ray and Bob Probert at least had some skill. Shoot, I even remember Danny Lacroix scoring a goal or two. Bonvie on the other hand was no more than a wrestling foil on the ice to draw fans to the games because (as most Penguins fans conveniently forget) the team was a joke from 1997-2005.
5) Whoever the hell this guy is
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
What a joke. By far the most unoriginal fan ever! What compels a person to one day to decide to dress like Hulk Hogan as Penguins fan? Could you imagine the thought process of such a person making the final decision on doing this? I like to imagine this origin story like this:
Some guy (eating dinner): You know what? I’m finally going to do it!
That guy’s wife: Do what?
Some guy: I finally thought of a way to contribute to the team.
That guy’s wife: What team? What are you talking about?
Some Guy: That’s it! I’m going to dress like Hulk Hogan and wear a Penguins jersey and only do the “can you hear me brother” move over and over because I can’t be bothered to learn any of Hulk Hogan’s other moves to cheer on the Penguins!
You get the idea.
What I love even more about this picture is that EVERYONE is laughing at this dude after Hartnell serves him like a volleyball. You know that this guy felt this burn hard because no one has seen him since.
(Additionally, what is up with the public address announcer saying, “Elvis has left the building” after they win? I could not think of a more arbitrary and erroneous thing to say after one team bests another team in a match of hockey)
And finally, 6) John LeClair
This image makes my heart hurt more than anything. I am well aware that there are many, many players that have been Flyers and then Penguins and vice versa. But Johnny Vermont playing for the Penguins is just the pits!
Only playing parts of two seasons with the Penguins does nothing to tarnish his legacy with the Flyers but those were some unsettling days. Unsettling because he should have really retired as a Flyer, and unsettling because it also reminds me of how clueless the Flyers were coming out of the lockout. It is well known that signing big slow guys like Darian Hatcher and Mike Rathje were terrible ideas – I just wish they would have kept this big slow guy around instead.
Well there you have it. Hopefully, I have uncovered the fact that you may be experiencing “Pens-Holm Syndrome” and that we are mentally being held captive by Pittsburgh in that our hate for them has dwindled.
I very purposefully did not list a current reason or player as evidence as why you should continue to hate the Penguins. The rational here is that I don’t care if the Kessel and Sullivan have found a way to Incept our minds. The fact of the matter is that you have hated the Penguins forever, and hopefully you will go on to hate the Penguins forever!
Go Marty Jones! Go The Big Pavelski! Go Burns! Go Thornton! and Go SHARKSSSSS!
May you save us from the mental, mayo jarred prison our minds are being held in.