Heed this warning from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: Unless you happen to be extraordinary, whatever you do, don’t cash in that winning lottery ticket! In the Oct. 14 2008 issue of THN, Campbell said,
…the Penguins have as much of a chance of winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 as most ordinary folk do getting hit by lightning on the way to cashing in their winning lottery ticket.
IF ANYONE CAN, PITTSBURGH CAN:
The last road team to win Game 7 of the championship round in any major league was the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
And the last team to lose in the final round and come back to win the Stanley Cup the following year was Edmonton, way back in 1984. Indeed, most teams that lose in the final tank entirely the following season.
Even if you’re not the world’s most dedicated hockey connoisseur (or into sports much), there were a few noteworthy items about the Stanley Cup Championship game between Detroit and Pittsburgh:
ONE: At the start of the season, Marian Hossa forwent a fat paycheck with the Penguins to skate among Redwings, aka The Enemy after last year’s Championship battle between the two, for less than 25-percent of what the Penguins paid him.
Hossa gambled that was his best chance to win the Stanley Cup. Of course, he’s not the first guy to jump teams with the sole purpose of being on a Championship team. Ray Bourque did it with Colorado and won. Those were both strong teams for sure. Still, it’s quite a gamble, isn’t it? Anything can happen in a season.
For Hossa, the gamble seemed less risky. Most people in the world of hockey agreed Detroit would skate off with the Cup again and as Campbell asserted, the likelihood was slim that Pittsburgh would make a repeat appearance in the final round. The Penguins did start the season strong, but then choked. It looked like they wouldn’t even make the playoffs until they made a coaching change – to a rookie coach no less. But it worked.
After the game, I watched the handshake line closely to see if any of Hossa’s former teammates whispered, “Sucks to be you, man.” They didn’t. It was too obvious.
WORST TO FIRST: On the flip side from Hossa, Bill Guiren came to Pittsburgh from the Islanders, sitting in last place at the trade deadline. No gammble there. Just crazy luck.
TWO: At the start of Game 7, the camera caught the face of Ruslan Fedotenko on the Pittsburgh bench. Did you see it? He looked relaxed. He looked like he was happy to be there and not in an over-excited, hyper, “Here we go here we go you can do it you can do it” way. Not with a nervous, “Dear god one single error and we’re so hosed” look. All over his face was written, “We have a chance. We truly have a chance. We’re gonna enjoy the game and maybe we’ll win.” I believed him. And they did. In Detroit.
THREE: Ever heard of the EA Sports cover curse?
While it’s not quite the same, during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, NBC aired an EA Sports ad featuring amateur athletes who feel just like the pros when they play EA Sports games. It included a girl playing hockey in her Red Wings jersey, followed by footage of the Wings holding the Cup.
Advertisers commonly shoot two versions of ads for championship games. As soon as the game is over, the ad featuring the winning team is played, like everyone knew all along which team it’d be. For the Stanley Cup final, the ad ran during the game.
NOoooo! EA cuuurse! You know how that story played out.
Who plays an ad like that before the champion is determined?! What was EA Sports thinking? Indeed, Pittsburgh wrote their own history, as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma encouraged them to. Did EA Sports have a hand in writing Detroit’s? I’m just sayin’.
CONGRATS: To Bylsma. I wonder how his career will play out from here, having won in his very first season what other coaches and players work their faces off for their entire careers.
And to Max Talbot, who earned both of Pittsburgh’s Game 7 goals. You just know he’s had this scenario in his head since he was seven:
Game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. Talbot skates in with the puck and SCORES! Talbot has single-handedly won his team the Stanley Cup! [crowd on feet, cheering wildly]
Of course, it was a team effort to earn the Cup. But when you’re seven, it’s all about YOU.
TIMBITS: Manny Ramirez will be swingin’ bats for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes this week. I’ll let you know if the crowd cheers or jeers….
Next up – Tour de France! Good thing he’s outta retirement. As of June, Lance has another kid to support (that’s #4, this time with girlfriend Anna Hansen).