Saturday, June 13, 2009

Penguins' Cup win supersedes Detroit's woes

I woke up this morning expecting to see video of people dancing in the streets celebrating the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup on Friday night.

Instead I logged onto my computer and the first thing I was led to was an ABC video entitled “No Joy In Motown,” focusing on the Red Wings losing the Cup in Detroit, a city that leads the nation in unemployment (14 percent) and where the housing market and automobile industry have collapsed.

Now I feel for Detroit. Everybody does. But what about Pittsburgh and its hockey franchise!? The Penguins became the first road team in 30 years to win a Game 7 of a finals championship series but their fans and their city have suffered through tough times, too.

Mario Lemieux will forever be the face of hockey in Pittsburgh and its savior. In 1993, a year after he led the Penguins to their last Stanley Cup, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at the height of his playing career. He beat cancer and eventually became the team’s owner. In 1998, the team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was on the verge of folding or moving. Lemieux stepped in and agreed to defer players’ salaries, thus saving the team. Few if any owners would ever do that.

The Penguins continued to lose money. In 2004, their attendance (11,877 per game) was the worst in the NHL. The next season started and Lemieux had no choice but to go along with an NHL owners lockout, preventing players from playing and fans from watching. Five years ago, the Penguins and the league had hit rock bottom.

Then, on Friday night with Super Mario in attendance, the Penguins climbed back to the top, ending an incredible comeback by hoisting the Cup over their heads in Detroit. There may have been no joy in Motown, but there was tons of pride in Pittsburgh, the Steel City. It’s a feel-good story that even Detroit can appreciate.


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