The Penguins fan perspective:
Somewhere on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, aside the east bound lane of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, after the Irwin exit I believe, is a normal-looking, PennDOT approved, highway sign with that green reflective paint that was installed to indicate to travelers leaving Pittsburgh the distance it is to the next major metropolis. The sign to most people says: “Philadelphia 287 miles.” Except if you didn’t know that Philadelphia was located in the east bound direction and were perhaps a really terrible Wheel-of-Fortune or hangman player, the sign may not be as clear to you since someone once pulled over and placed a Pittsburgh Steelers bumper sticker angularly over the -adelp- portion of the sign.
I pass this sign probably a good 5 times a year cruising back east from the ï¿½burgh, and every time I think well yeah sort of, and I begin to wish that this sign that always seems to catch my eye meant a little more to me.
Thinking back, the last legitimate Pittsburgh -Philly marquee matchup in any sport may have been in 2004 when the 6-1 Steelers took on the 7-0, newly T.O. equipped, Eagles at Heinz Field. My friends Toph, and Big G made the trip from Philly to meet me for a late night on the Southside, and then we ponied up for three scalper tickets that beautiful, cool November afternoon. I recall how newsworthy of an event this was to even the most casual of NFL fans in PA. But even with all the hoopla, all the mayoral politicking of Primanti Brothers for Gino’s cheesesteak wagers, low and behold before you knew it, the Heinz ketchup bottle appeared to be doing sets of side bends with the Steelers leading 21-0 with just 5 minutes evaporated in the second quarter. It never got any better, or worse, or better depending how you looked at it; the Steelers went on to win 27-3. Brian Westbrook had 21 total yards. It was such a lop-sided and abysmal showing that no one wanted to remember how much talk was talked, or how much money we just forked over for tickets that we came to find out weren’t even in the same seating section. Granted I was thrilled to win, Donovan and T.O. began their glorious buddy-spat on these very sidelines, but come on. There was just not a lot of substance to this Pennsylvania rivalry.
Not yet. Now comes this. A best-of-seven series between these two intra-state teams, who are each playing quite impressively right now to say the least. And the very fact that the winner moves on to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals says to me there is no way around this one. Not this time. There will be almost 2 weeks of hockey, broadcast on television in every major market, on the Versus and NBC channels that will divide hockey fans in the State more distinctly than the Appalachian mountain chain running through it’s middle.
Who’s going to win? I don’t know. Who has the better powerplay kill, is younger, faster, a better goalie. No comment. What I do know, is that no one on the ice will be tougher than Gary Roberts.
And secondly, I know when this series is over; I will hate you people regardless. And if it’s customary to exchange jerseys before the series as a friendly token of Commonwealth pride, I think this one should fit ya.