The Bruins and the Penguins will drop the puck on Saturday at 8pm in Pittsburgh. You can view the rest of the schedule here.
Now, I've been seeing a lot of "it's hard to hate the Penguins" tweets out there and for that I say just try harder. Look, I like the Penguins. I'll make no bones about it. I think they're a great hockey team and I have an undying love for Jarome Iginla that no black and gold flame could extinguish. If the Pens win the series, I get to see my favorite player since about 2003 play in the Stanley Cup Finals and have a real shot at winning it. That's awesome.
However, for those who don't like Pittsburgh – they're a very dislikable team and all you need to do is start with their owner: Mario Lemieux.
You can start with the 1991 Prince of Wales Finals where the Bruins had a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 and Pittsburgh won four straight and eventually the Stanley Cup. Lemieux led the Penguins in scoring that playoff run – scoring 16 goals and having 28 assists for 44 points. That a lone should be enough to despise to Penguins.
That was Boston's best chance at winning the Stanley Cup with that group. Instead, Lemieux did Lemieux things and choked the life out of them.
The next season, Lemieux and the Penguins swept the Bruins in the Prince of Wales Finals again, but it was clear that Pittsburgh was the better team and had surpassed the Bruins' aging talent.
That's not to say that Lemieux isn't one to complain. Mario is a well known whiner and it basically started in 1992, when Lemieux was slashed by Rangers' Adam Graves and there was no call. So what does Lemieux do? Go to the papers and call the NHL a "garage league" because calls aren't being made.
"The advantage is to the marginal players now. They can hook and grab, and the good players can't do what they're supposed to do."
Then there was his complaining in Sports Illustrated in 1997:
Over the summer Lemieux talked to Penguins owner Howard Baldwin, who persuaded him to return for one more year to try to win a third Stanley Cup. Baldwin and Lemieux were then invited to New York to talk to Brian Burke, the NHL director of operations, and commissioner Gary Bettman about Lemieux's concerns over league officiating.
"I talked about all the clutching and grabbing, how it was taking away from the great players in the league," Lemieux says. "It's to the point where it's not hockey anymore. It's like football on skates. The best teams win in basketball because the players can run up the court without carrying two guys on their backs. Not so in hockey. That's why there are so many teams with mediocre records. [Opposing players] grab you whether you have the puck or not. It's the worst it's been since I've been in the league. [Burke and Bettman] agreed. They always agree when you're there. It's very, very aggravating. You keep getting promises, and they aren't kept."
Mario must be super-human though because he scored 50 goals and had 122 points that season. Clutching and grabbing must not have been that much of a problem.
This is like molesty uncle creepy
Even his peers thought he was a whiner. In April 2012, Ray Bourque made his thoughts public on the Toucher and Rich show:
“You always used to hear Mario whine or Brett Hull whine, all these guys that went out there and scored all kinds of goals and wanted to be left alone and not hit. And when somebody on their team or themselves do something, you’d hear nothing about it. This is something that’s been around for a long time. It will never end. That was pretty interesting hearing Torts say that. I enjoyed listening to that.” Bourque told the show’s hosts that whining has always been part of the game, and that Lemieux was one of the worst whiners he encountered. “Brett Hull was pretty good, too.”
And Lemieux has done a good job of it himself. I really didn't want to mention this, but I have to, just to show Mario's hypocrisy. Remember when Matt Cooke ended Marc Savard's hockey career?
All was well in good in Mario's world until his superstar got a concussion and Evgeni Malkin got hurt. Then the goonfest against the New York Islanders happened:
But then Mario picked up his soap box and openly called for action:
"The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.
"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it."
So when his guy ends someone's career, it's fine (and apparently Mario didn't care when Ulf did it back in the day either) but when his two best players are out due to injury (one at the hand of another player) and then his team get embarrassed on Long Island, now's the time to take a stand.
Look for tomorrow's "Reasons to hate the Pittsburgh Penguins" when we take a look at everyone's favorite troglodyte, Ulf Samuelsson.