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A Few Words About the Pittsburgh Crowd

More observations from this morning at the rink....

* You saw how Bruce Boudreau and Matt Cooke were trading barbs. This was the last word I heard from Cooke: "Bruce can banter all he wants," he said. "I could care less." As for Boudreau describing some of the Pittsburgh complaints as "so funny"....well, Dan Bylsma was asked to respond. "I don't know who's laughing, but the games have been refereed the way the games are normally refereed," he said.

* The Empty Netters blog today linked to a Post-Gazette story with this lead-in: "Unlike say.... Washington... Pittsburgh is a hockey town." So I read the story. Look, no one is arguing which city is nuttier over its hockey team right now, but for all the folks finding cosmically opposite fan bases, check the final quote:

""There was nothing worse than a Tuesday night in February with the Oakland Seals coming in," [longtime fan Dave] Disney said. "There were enough years when we needed people on the bandwagon or we wouldn't have a band."

But, but, but, people in Pittsburgh aren't bandwagoners! They told me so themselves! "We're very fortunate to be in this situation," team vice president Tom McMillan told the paper. "It wasn't all that long ago that we had our struggles here."

* Maxime Talbot was asked about the home-ice advantage, and whether the fans would heckle Alex Ovechkin.

"I think they're more a cheerful crowd than a hostile crowd," he said. "They cheer for us instead of trying to be negative towards the other players, so they're gonna push for us and it's definitely gonna be a big help for us, a big boost."

Someone asked whether the hostile crowd thing referred to D.C.

"No, it was more relating to Philly maybe," Talbot said. "But our fans are positive, they've got our back, they're supporting us and it's great to have them and see them again tonight."

* How much does home ice actually matter? We'll see, I guess. In April, the Caps were 4-2-1 at home, 4-2 on the road. In March, they were 2-3-1 at home, 4-2-1 on the road.

"Home ice advantage is big, but I think for us we haven't played the best hockey we can play yet," Brian Pothier said. "We've been a little bit maybe too cute, a little bit too fancy. So I think being on the road might actually benefit us, not trying to put on a show and just really simplifying our game, tapping pucks deep and just playing real simple hockey."

Has Pothier been too cute? Not likely.

"I'm not a very cute player," he noted. "I'm not good enough to be cute."

* From TSN:

Ovechkin may have added a little trash-talk to the equation as he appeared to be chanting "Penguins suck" along with the Verizon Center faithful near the end of the game. The Pens were not about to be drawn into a war of words with the Capitals superstar....

"That's the way he is," Pens' forward Jordan Staal said of Ovechkin. "Obviously he's an exciting player, but at the same time he wants to win. When he does stuff like that he gives a little fuel for the fire of our team."

NOTE: He was chanting not "Penguins Suck," but "You Suck," a la Rock & Roll Part II. Guess not many Terps fans work at TSN. Watch the video here.

* A Versus reporter was gathering some notes to compare and contrast the personalities of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. I overheard her asking Crosby a few lighter-side-type questions. "I'm boring," he told her.

* Talbot's quote suggested that player actually hear individual messages from fans. I've gotten several responses on that one. "You don't hear what they're saying, you just hear the loudness," he said. "It gives the home team some momentum, so we're gonna definitely have to come out hard and be ready for it."

* Apropos of nothing, the Caps' video of Jim Zorn on the kiss cam Monday night earned something like 100,000 190,000 views. In technical Web video terms, we refer to that as "a lot."

* Forward Eric Fehr, of course, didn't skate, instead riding an exercise bike while reading the newspaper. USA Today Weather page. He said he was working on his U.S. geography.

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 6, 2009; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Charles Barkley Says Ovechkin > LeBron


"But, but, but, people in Pittsburgh aren't bandwagoners! They told me so themselves!"

Please also be sure to conveniently ignore the Pirates' lack of fans (don't the Nats out draw them?) when perpetuating the "DC is the only bandwagon town in America" myth.

Posted by: ThisGuy | May 6, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I prefer to play PS3 while on the bike.

Posted by: tha_prophet | May 6, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

This is DC. We love our Redskins more than we'll ever love the Caps and we're not a hockey town, but that isn't stopping us from whipping Pittsburgh's butts.

Posted by: brian71490 | May 6, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it was tough going getting people to show up to see the Seals play. But considering the Seals haven't existed since 1976 how relevant is that? It's about as relevant as pointing out that DC lost two baseball teams a long, long time ago.

Couldn't you come up with something better or are you too busy whining and pumping up the non-stories of KDKA reporters and Crosby's hat complaint. Here's a suggestion: write about something like Ovie's big dive or the possibility he's using an illegally curved stick.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | May 6, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RickyRage | May 6, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

WHAT? A star player in the NHL might be using AN ILLEGAL STICK from time to time???? This is mind-blowingly astonishing! I cannot believe it! Someone get a Congressional inquiry going! /sarcasm

Posted by: nafspac | May 6, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Feel that breeze go over your head, LionelMandrake?

Posted by: sitruc | May 6, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Well, considering it was hard getting people to show up in 2003, I'd say it's a bit more relevant, especially since most Penguins fans are quick to deride DC as the ultimate bandwagoners and promote themselves as the greatest fans in sports.

Glass houses.

Posted by: Zornado | May 6, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey, 2003 is fair game. 1975, not so much.

As for players using illegal sticks. Sure it happens, and it may be happening in the playoffs. If you thought Crosby was doing it you would be launching a Congressional investigation (and please after the hard hitting BCS hearing this week, please don't give them any ideas). I'm just waiting for this guy to do some real work instead of trying to hype non-stories.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | May 6, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse


You're waiting for Steinz to do "real work?" Like what, cover subcommittee hearings on appropriations? Dude, it's sports. It's fun. Relax.

Did you see that South Park episode where Kanye West didn't get the joke and wondered why everyone was calling him a gay fish? It appears tha you're the Kanye West of the Sports Bog today.

Posted by: Fozzie1 | May 6, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

@Lionel, I love you man, and welcome your always smart comments, but gosh. I left my house at 6:45, drove straight to Pittsburgh, got to the press area three minutes after Boudreau started talking, went from there to Bylsma to Pens to Caps, got to my computer around 1, and have since posted things that took actual question-asking (Alzner) and things that didn't (that link).

It's not gonna win any awards, for sure, but I thought it was interesting both in light of all the bandwagon complaints, and because a Pittsburgh blogger used this story to indicate how Pittsburgh is a hockeytown unlike D.C. I mean, people don't leave comments about faceoff techniques; they leave comments about accusations of bandwagoneering.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | May 6, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Pittsburgh going to lose the Penguins to Vegas like a year ago?

Pittsburgh just got thier 6th Football championship this year. Washington has had 6 since 91 (we got a few in the leather days with slinging sammy)

Posted by: alex35332 | May 6, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

LionelMandrake gets all of his Pittsburgh slanted hockey news from the DC Sports Bog. Sorry Dan got in your way by being funny, interesting, and right about your team of whiners and hipocrites.

Nice crowd in 2003, by the way.

Posted by: BillyBeane | May 6, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Actually it was Kansas City that was in the running for the Pens. I can't imagine the NHL or NBA wants to put a team in Vegas. Of course the threat to move the team was in negotiations to get a new arena, it had nothing to do with fan support. I'd think DC sports fans who saw the negotiations with MLB to bring the Nats here would understand the rhetoric used during these types of negotiations. If you can't threaten to leave you aren't going to get a new arena or stadium. And, yes, 2003 was a terrible year in hockey for both DC and Pittsburgh.

And, Dan, get a pizza from Mineos it'll put you in a better mood.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | May 6, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

this is from an article about the coyotes bankruptcy and potential sale and relocation, straight from the good ol Commish...

"We generally try to avoid relocating franchises unless you absolutely have to," he said. "We think when a franchise is in trouble, you try and fix the problems. That's what we did in Pittsburgh and Ottawa and Buffalo prior to our work stoppage. That's what we did when the perception was that five out of the six Canadian franchises around the turn of the century were in trouble. We fixed the problems. We don't run out on cities."

beyond the ridiculous whining by these flightless birdies...they like to jab D.C. for our bandwagon fans....well it seems the commish thought Pitt was in serious trouble just a few years back...but they are just the best "hockey town" ever arent they????

3-0 tonight friends, LETS GO CAPS!!!!!

Posted by: Pantera105 | May 6, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Again, that was an arena issue. The current arena is the oldest in the league and isn't set up for the modern business reality. Think skyboxes and that. The Caps were very, very lucky to have Abe Polin all those years. But just look at the t.v. ratings which place Buffalo and Pittsburgh at the top of the US markets. That's why Bettmen wanted to stay in those markets.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | May 6, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Pittsburgh: dead last in the league in attendance this century.

Washington: not dead last in the league in attendance this century

Pittsburgh: declaring Bankruptcy and threatening to move to another city this century.

Washington: not declaring Bankruptcy and threatening to move to another city this century.

Which one is the bandwagon town now?

Posted by: FlyersSuck | May 6, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Only two NHL teams this decade have had the "honor" of having a season of average attendance under 12,000 fans per game.

The Islanders... and the Penguins.

Posted by: Zilla05 | May 6, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

ahhh but look at their tv ratings hahahaha....i say again....LETS GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: Pantera105 | May 6, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm just waiting for this guy to do some real work instead of trying to hype non-stories.

Posted by: sosway49 | May 7, 2009 6:27 AM | Report abuse

"Pittsburgh just got thier 6th Football championship this year. Washington has had 6 since 91 (we got a few in the leather days with slinging sammy)"

Can some translate this from Redskineese to English for me? I live in Ashburn, can I Google maps the location to where the 6 Lombardi Trophies are?

For a city whose economy is bolstered by the millions of government jobs, the residents take a lot of liberties in looking down through their noses at a city that has fallen on hard times (but created the steel to build this country and help win WW2). When my service to our great country is done, I'll gladly move my family back home.

Criticize the Pens all you want, leave the City out of it. (Or atleast win *something* before you claim the high ground).

Posted by: jayhum | May 7, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Phoenix have what in common? If you guessed bankruptcy filings, you'd be right!

Prior to the 2005 lottery, Pittsburgh's TV ratings (and attendance) were dismal. Facts bear this out. Washington's ratings have been in the top half of the league for the last decade. Again, facts bear this out.

Bettman does not act like some lone ranger. He operates for, and is beholden to, the BOG (Leonsis, as is Mario Lemieux are members). I know blaming Bettman for everything seems like a fun hobby, but Bettman is merely expressing the will and desires of the BOG.

Posted by: jcurrin | May 7, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I love Eric. I always work on my US and Canadian geography so I know all the hockey areas.

Posted by: farmgirl19C | May 7, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Pittsburgh is a Steelers town and every other sport just fills the time between the Steelers getting another Super Bowl Ring.

Posted by: SteelHop | May 7, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

If Capitals fans are so hardcore, then why does your owner have to restrict ticket sales to DC area codes? Penguins fans have been taking over your arena for the past 20 years. It's funny that people are saying DC is a Redskins town, because the FedEx Field was filled with Steelers fans at the game last year.

As for the low attendance at the beginning of the decade, you could attribute that to the state of the NHL at the time. The Pens traded away Jagr to you guys for what amounted to nothing. The same thing happened with Alexei Kovalev and Robert Lang. The Pens had to dump salary because the bigger markets were driving up salaries. The Pens were going the way of the Pirates, and the fans weren't going to dish out their hard earned dollars if ownership wasn't going to retain talent.

Posted by: jtp2106 | May 7, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

We're still doing that argument, jtp2106? I thought everybody was past that.

Posted by: sitruc | May 7, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

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