The Pittsburgh Penguins are history. Gone. You can kiss them goodbye. And there is nooooooooooo doubt about it.
New owner-in-waiting Jim Balsillie has given Mario Lemieux a giant hockey bag of cash that will allow Mario to join seven more country clubs and buy 18,378 more bottles of wine. Balsillie will also take away Mario's legacy as a player when he moves the team to Hamilton or Toronto or Las Vegas or Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan. Mario will not have an NHL sweater anymore. Scratch my back with a hacksaw and buy my dog one, too.
Great Balsillie of fire.
Balsillie will move the Penguins. Pittsburgh is the 22nd-largest TV market in the United States and that number will likely move in the wrong direction in this century. Bigger market sizes (TV homes) that don't have NHL teams: Orlando (20th), Sacramento (19th), Cleveland (16th), Seattle (13th), Houston (10th) and Chicago (third). (For the record, Hartford is 28th. It's the largest TV market without a pro sports team and a larger market than Raleigh, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., Kansas City, Columbus, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y. A man can dream, can't he?)
The Penguins will not be going to Las Vegas, which is the 48th market and has slightly more TV homes than Buffalo (49th). Sure, some sleazy high roller might go to a few games in Lost Wages, but while Sidney Crosby has a nine-point night, he will be playing video poker on the back of the seat in front of him, leave in the second period to get some free prime rib and will pass on a Peter Lee bobblehead doll at the souvenir stand. Plus, you could build nine brand-new hockey arenas with the money lost at blackjack tables by players over the past 15 years. This is the last place the NHL needs to be.
The Penguins will not be going to Kansas City (31st). The Penguins will end up in Canada. And why not? What the NFL is to the United States, the NHL is to Canada. Passion has never been higher and the Penguins have a ready-made Canadian icon in Crosby. You can't imagine the immediate impact this would have in Canada. The cash to be made by Balsillie is mind-boggling. There is a huge economic windfall to be made in Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Finance (were they in an Austin Powers movie?!) reported last April that the province's population is projected to grow by 30.7 percent, or 3.9 million, from an estimated 12.54 million to 16.40 million by July 1, 2031. The population reaches 14.54 million under the low-growth scenario and 17.85 million under the high-growth scenario by 2031.
Supporting another hockey team in Ontario, especially near Toronto, will not be a problem. It poses the same question I had about Minnesota a few years back when that city didn't have a team: "What took so long?" When the North Stars moved to Dallas, I would have done everything possible to get my franchise to Minnesota if it was based in the States before it was awarded the Wild.
And Balsillie has the pockets to float the ship until it takes full sail. In 1999, Research In Motion, a small pager manufacturer, introduced the BlackBerry. It quickly became one of the most successful high-tech companies of all time, slightly edging out Atari and Gottlieb, who made the video game Q*bert in 1982. Ol' Jimbo became one of the richest men in Canada. Balsillie and his co-chief executive, Mike Lazaridis, were collectively paid $95 million this year. Balsillie is now worth an estimated $1 billion thanks to the success of the BlackBerry. The man has a lot of Balsillies.
Balsillie is also a well-known philanthropist ("I give to you a hockey team!) in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in Ontario, where Research In Motion is based and where he lives with his Canadian wife and two Canadian children. This guy is more Canadian than the late John Candy drinking Blue backstage at a Hip concert. He ain't moving to Upper St. Clair, Sewickley, or Indiana, Pa.
But we won't hear him say that. He will say all the right things until the moving vans are heading north on I-79.
In the future, "Chirping" will be a nonfiction conversation portion of this column. But for this week's inaugural installment, let's have a make-believe chirpfest with that wacky new owner (pending approval) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jim Balsillie. His introductory news conference in Pittsburgh was part Carl Sagan, part Darren Pang, part Merv Griffin, part Kevin Spacey, part Unfrozen Caveman Canadian Lawyer.
"Ladies and gentlemen of Pittsburgh, I'm just a Canadian. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your Plan B arena deal frightens and confuses me! Sometimes, when I fly to Europe on the Concorde, I wonder, am I inside some sort of giant bird? Am I going to be digested? I don't know, because I'm a caveman, and that's the way I think. When I'm rinkside at a Leafs game, I wonder if the puck is some sort of desert treat they're fighting over. When I see my image on the security camera at Oakmont Country Club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover and run across the fairway to the clubhouse, where I get them to make me one of those martinis they are so famous for to soothe my primitive caveman brain. But whatever world you're from, I do know one thing -- we must do everything in our power to lower the capital gains tax. Thank you!"
Bucci: After your performance on the Penguins broadcast against the Flyers last week, has anyone in Pittsburgh called you Jim "Baldsilly?" You said "Holy #!," after Bob Errey asked you about the game. Live on the air! I heard it! I guess you thought you weren't on the air yet?
Balsillie: We have much looser language laws in Canada. Don Cherry is allowed to make fun of other people's ethnicities! Isn't that awesome? I didn't realize you couldn't say that word on U.S. TV until Paul Steigerwald turned white. Holy #!, that was awesome! And that Bob Errey. WHAT A HEAD OF HAIR! To DIE for! Just awesome.
Bucci: I notice you like that word, awesome. You must have said it 15 times in your booth appearance on Fox Chapel Channel Sports Pittsburgh North Net or whatever it's called. I can't keep up. You have to be the leader in the guys-who-went-to-Harvard-and-say-awesome clubhouse. I sure hope a Pittsburgh radio morning show is playing your audio on their show all week. Dude, you're a nut! I love you! Let's golf.
Balsillie: Holy #!, Crosby's awesome.
Bucci: Guys born in the early 1960s in Canada seem to love that word, awesome. Anyway, what's up? Are you moving the Penguins or not?
Balsillie: If Isle of Capri is awarded the license for the slot machine casino, the future of the Penguins is awesomely awesome. Can I show you my BlackBerry?
Bucci: I'm not that kind of guy. I prefer Crunch Berries. Listen, we all know Isle of Capri will get the casino license the next time you drive a Caprice Classic to work wearing Capri pants. Wait, I can picture that. So, what if Isle of Capri doesn't get the casino license?
Balsillie: Then that would definitely not be awesome. That would be awesomely bad.
Bucci: Then what's the truth about your true intentions? Between you and me. I won't tell anyone. This e-mail is as good as deleted, Baldsilly.
Balsillie: Listen to me. Have you ever heard or seen anyone more Canadian than me? I have an impeccable vocabulary, dress to the nines and my personal hygiene is off the charts. I'm Mr. Canadian Clean! I swear on TV and say 'awesome' in every other sentence. What more can I do?
"Watchin' X-Files with no lights on
We're dans la maison
I hope the Smoking Man's in this one?"
I can keep going here! Listen, Pittsburgh is a very nice city. They have an iconic (Like that word? Very Canadian) NFL franchise and a fine Triple-A baseball team. The people are some of the nicest in the world and that Duquesne Incline is so damn cute! But I paid $175 million for this new toy and it's mine. And I'm taking my toy home to awesome Kitchener, Ontario! We will become the Kitchener Motion and play in The BlackBerry Gardens. Peace out Pittsburgh! The B in Plan B is Balsillie to the wall, silly. OUT!
"The A List" will be a list of three, five, 10, 20 people, places and things. An easy, quick list to begin your day at work or at home. They will usually be hockey related. Forgive me in advance, but future lists might include: Five Favorite Cereals, Four Favorite Chevy Chase Movies or Five Gnarls Barkley Songs That Bob Dylan Should Cover.
Six Observations From Watching The First Week of NHL Hockey
1. Watching Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer on the points during the same power play is beyond surreal. I still don't believe what I am watching. I also noticed Pronger is now allowed to play with pre-lockout savagery. And that's fun to watch. This is the greatest power-play point team since Bobby Orr did it alone in the early 1970s.
2. The Buffalo Sabres' new logo is Barney Rubble's hair. Actually, it's Barney
Rubble with slight bed head. The Sabres' road whites look like Flintstone Adult Pajamas that you would buy at Wal-Mart. Maybe these things will get better with repetition, like Guster's latest CD, "Ganging Up On The Sun," but I'm thinking the uniforms might be more like an MC Hammer CD and get worse.
3. Anze Kopitar. He was born in Slovenia 17 days after Sidney Crosby in 1987, giving him the same birthday as Andrew Brunette and Dave Chappelle. KOPE-I-TAR also shares a birthday with "SportsCenter" Hall of Fame anchor Craig Kilborn, Steve Guttenberg and Rafael Furcal. Kopitar is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and has speed, hands and hockey sense.
4. I think Ryan Miller might be the best goalie in the Eastern Conference.
5. As I watched the Flyers-Rangers game Saturday night, I wondered, "Are
these two teams fast enough? They look slow." How can they play with Buffalo, Anaheim, San Jose, Minnesota or Edmonton? Maybe they had a bad night.
6. Mick McGeough in a hockey helmet looks an amusement park ride.
I'm going to light the red lamp this week with something that popped into my head at 1:30 in the afternoon Thursday after I began what I thought would be a 60-75-minute power nap. When you get to sleep at 4 a.m., as I often do with my "SportsCenter" anchorman "scotch, scotch, I love scotch" job, you need naps just to survive. I was about to doze off, when
I'm trying to capitalize on creative jolts by immediately writing them down so they don't disappear like Pavel Datsyuk in the playoffs. So, I dragged myself downstairs and started typing this on my laptop in the dining room. I write in the dining room because like 93 percent of America, the dining room is no longer used for dining. I have to make use of this overpriced $4,000 dining room set that I paid for over 12 interest-free months in 1998. Why do we still have dining rooms? And why do we have five old coffeemakers and seven old phones? What's up with the phones lasting two to three years?
Anyway, this is what came out of my brain. I put in under the red light header to warn you that it probably won't make any sense to you. I apologize in advance if I waste the 60 seconds out of your life it takes to read this. I don't know what else to do with it. (I know. Control A. Backspace.)
Something will happen. Something always happens. If you are wondering what to do? How do I act? What will tomorrow bring? What to do next? How do I make this decision? How do I follow my heart? What is my heart? What is my heart saying? Do hearts ever say anything? Am I reacting to the sugar in my Apple Jacks?
Just remember, something will happen.
Relax. There is no need to worry or manipulate.
The conversion rate of analysis on an NHL pregame show is 0.9 percent, and that 0.9 percent success rate comes from the fact that the analyst has an NHL schedule on his laptop and knows who's playing. Something will happen at 7 p.m. After that, no one knows.
But something always does. And something will happen tomorrow. And the next day. And then, something else will happen. Sometimes at the same time. And then, one will stop. And something else will happen.
Getting up and deciding what you are going to do today is usually a decision that's already made for you. Just do it. If you don't want to do that anymore, then think about the five people who are closest to you and how it will affect them. If you find that it could affect them greatly, keep doing what you were doing. Even if it makes you want to stick a rusty knife in your left ear. But don't stick a rusty knife in your left ear. Because something will happen. Have a rough plan and be patient. If there is no one for you to worry about, do something unconventional. You might never get that chance again.
Ride the wave. You don't make waves, you ride waves. Experience and attentiveness can help you anticipate what a wave might look like, how to ride it, but don't overanalyze it. Just ride it. With respect and love and freedom and strength. Yeah, that's the ticket. Just be that. Because something will happen. It might not happen today or tomorrow or next Wednesday, but it will happen. And if you respect, love, are strong, healthy, and free enough to ride a wave, then you, my friend, are living.
Self-loathing, isolation, doubt and despair are friendly confines in the mind of a vacillator. Don't go there. Don't feel as if there is nothing for the world to offer you or you to offer the world. Don't feel so small. Think of a space, 50 feet, no 20 feet, in each direction. Fertilize it with your respect, love, freedom and strength. Fill in that space and stay within the lines. If you can complete that space, then extend your boundaries, but not until you touch the lines. You might get to the edge in five minutes and it might take five years to go one more inch. Stay inside the edge until full. And don't despair. Because something will happen. Something will always happen.
The game is long. The game changes. Old rules die. Old rules live. New rules are formed. And then some of them die. Sometimes overnight. If you live within your 20 feet, the new rules that die won't affect you.
Don't take chances, take openings. The smaller the space you occupy, the more openings you will see and the further you will go. Be patient. The openings will always come, but they take time. Because something always happens. Your respect will choose the right openings for you, your love will cause you to act and your strength will power your resolve. And then, you are free.
Build that backyard rink, sign that kid up for hockey, go to that college hockey game, read that book by Jack Falla, watch that game tonight and feel the power of the hockey community.
Because something is happening.
I'm being released from prison tomorrow after serving a long sentence for assaulting the organ player at Boston Garden. His Muzak version of The Dead's "Bertha" was too much for any man to take. I only meant to scare him when I tossed my hot dog his way, but the next thing I knew, mustard and relish everywhere. Oh, the humanity. Anyway, now that I have paid my debt to society, and will once again have access to the outside world, I have two questions for you:
1. In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in the NHL since I was locked up 10 years ago?
2. How do you think my Whalers will do this year?
Gordie (Danbury Federal Penitentiary)
The Boston Bruins have a European captain. The Earth remains on its axis. Look for the Whale to make a run at the Eastern Conference this season. Pat Verbeek inexplicably grew 6 inches. Look for him to score 40-50 goals this season and become eligible for ALL rides at Six Flags in Agawam, Mass.
Follow me. Follow me to freedom.
Is there anything Alexander Ovechkin can't do? He recorded a hole-in-one at a charity golf tourney Monday afternoon. I swear he could beat Barry Melrose at a Barry Melrose-look-a-like contest.
Alexander Ovechkin CANNOT:
Kiss his left elbow
Stick his left elbow in his right ear
Make water evaporate at will
Resuscitate the career of Wang Chung
I don't like Alex Ovechkin. He got a hole-in-one during his first round of golf. I got mine last month during my 3,574th visit to a golf course. Although, technically it wasn't a hole-in-one. He whiffed on his first try. Nice birdie, Alex.
1. What is life?
2. What are four things that you personally need to live or survive?
3. What is the meaning of life?
Life is loving. Everything. This includes Oreos and The Three Stooges.
4. Carmen Electra, or a similar facsimile thereof.
To love what you do and who you do it with. The more the merrier.
Dustin Penner is going to win the Calder this season. With Malkin out for the beginning of the season, as long as Penner starts off well, I think he will win the Calder.
I have been a Ducks fan since they started (I'm only 18, so basically my whole life) and the Cincinnati Ducks came to Anaheim during the lockout. I don't remember why, or even how much, he played, but after those games, I loved him. So, seeing him play so well last year made me happy and this year he will, hopefully, win the Calder and the Ducks, the Cup.
Dustin Penner will likely not win the Calder because his team is too good. It's hard for a player to win the Calder on a good team unless there are no young franchise players on bad teams. Evgeni Malkin should be back soon and he will play a lot. He will play more power-play minutes than Penner, and thus have considerably more points. Now, if Malkin gets injured again and his number of games played is down, that opens the door for the rest of the class.
Will the NHL ever go back to wearing "home whites" ... AT HOME?!
I really hope so. Home teams were meant to wear crisp whites. But the third jerseys are dark, so it will probably stay that way. If the Wild would wear those home reds, I'd be all right by that.
I was at Barney's Beanery in L.A. last Saturday night, helping myself to some "pops." I looked across the bar and saw your mug on a 50-inch plasma screen. The sound wasn't on, but I was sober enough to know you weren't talking about hockey. Please fix this.
Oh, and Anze Kopitar is the real deal.
My head on TVs over 50 inches is outlawed in 14 states. As it should be.
Anze Kopitar. Now, here is someone who could be rookie of the year. I can't see how he doesn't score 30 goals this season. Big, fast, hands. He's the best Anze of all time. So, he's got that going for him, which is nice.
My question is: Whose number was "Sharpied" on the ball that went in for the ace?
Bobby Orr. It was a Nike One 4. Zbynek Michalek, of the Coyotes, was my next choice.
Kerry Fraser's hair is a hockey helmet.
Truer words were never typed.
I figured you of all people might understand this. Every time I watch a classic Bruins game, my heart breaks a little that I wasn't a fan of this amazing sport when Cam Neely played. Damn my parents for making me grow up in California.
Happy Opening Night!
The game was better because the arenas were better and the television camera angles were better. And there was less money in the game, which made it more affordable. And there were fewer teams, which made the players more familiar and manageable. But, Maggie, know this: the skill level in terms of speed, agility, shooting and goaltending has never been higher. You are watching the highest level of hockey that has ever graced Planet Earth. Enjoy it.
I've been a longtime reader of your stuff and a fan of the Minnesota Wild since they were conceived in 1997, but do you really think that the Wild will win the Cup this season? Heck, I'll be surprised if they even make the playoffs. Fernandez will falter now that he is the man in goal.
If they do pull it off, I'll come down to Minnesota for the party and wear a Wild T-shirt that reads, "JOHN BUCCIGROSS IS A GOD!" on the back.
See ya in St. Paul?
Chris, you remind me of the Wisconsin Badgers "fan" who told me I was high on NyQuil after I wrote here that Wisconsin would win the national championship last season. I was about to revoke your Wild fan license, but since you are in Alaska, and because of your T-shirt idea although, I prefer you take out the "A" if you ever make the tee. If you were from Minnesota, I would have called Shjon Podein and ordered him to your house with a can of permanent green paint. That gives me an idea. It's time for all Wild fans to go to home games with green faces. Yes, I am ordering Wild fans to paint their faces green for all Wild home games this season. Believe. And wear mouth guards.
I love your articles and read them whenever I can, but please leave the horrible, terrible, absolutely offensively bad modern rock out of your articles. They stick those terrible excuses for music in all the hockey video games nowadays, too, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. I'm 19 and I listen to The Beatles. You're a grown man and you listen to that stuff?
I'm a Loser
I'm a loser, I'm a loser,
And I'm not what I appear to be.
Of all the love I have won or have lost,
There is one love I should never have crossed.
She was a girl in a million, my friend,
I should have known she would win in the end.
I'm a loser, and I lost someone who's near to me,
I'm a loser, and I'm not what I appear to be.
Although I laugh and I act like a clown,
Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown,
My tears are falling like rain from the sky,
Is it for her or myself that I cry.
I'm a loser, and I lost someone who's near to me,
I'm a loser, and I'm not what I appear to be.
What I have done to deserve such a fate,
I realize I have left it too late.
And so it's true pride comes before a fall,
I'm telling you so that you won't lose all.
I'm a loser, and I lost someone who's near to me,
I'm a loser, and I'm not what I appear to be.
John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.