It’s not often the Flyers get the entire league behind them. It’s really only happened once before, and it wasn’t because of the Flyers but because of their universally despised opponent. Supremely talented and supremely hateable, that opponent was a team you couldn’t avoid but never liked. It was up to the Flyers to defeat The Evil Ones. It happened in 1976, when the Flyers were the league’s, the nation’s… the free world‘s last chance to defeat the evil USSR hockey team. And it’s happening again, against a force more evil than that:
The Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s the only thing that can bring fans of the Flyers, Rangers, the Devils (all 7 of them) and more together. And not just the fans. John Tortorella:
“Pittsburgh’s untouchable. Let’s get that straight. If you say something bad about them, they’re going to complain, they’re going to whine, they’re going to revolt against you. The fans are going to bitch-slap you all over Twitter. They’re gonna attack you. God help anybody if you’re gonna say anything negative about the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re like the almighty.
“They’re a phenomenal team. I love watching their team. I love watching Malkin and Crosby and all them. But you can’t say anything bad about them and not get backlash, complaining from those camps. I wish they’d just go and play and we can all have fun watching them. They have the best chance to win the Cup.
“I wouldn’t have apologized. I don’t know if I would have said exactly what Mike Milbury said, but he did and he had to apologize. I don’t know if I could, if I believed it. That’s just me. But Mike does things his way.
“I don’t understand why John Tortorella [got] fined. That’s his opinion. I can’t stand in the National Hockey League how they can just throw fines when they want when they don’t like when something is said. I thought it was freedom of speech in the United State. You can say what you want. And I think the players should be able to speak their minds, too. It’s too much of a dictatorship from that aspect, where the National Hockey League tries to control too much.”
“The Pittsburgh model? My ass. They got a lottery. They won a (expletive) lottery (in 2005 for Sidney Crosby) and they got the best player in the game. Is that available to me? Should we do that? Should we ask the League to have a lottery this year, and maybe we pick first?”
And of course, Mike Milbury:
I thought Dan Bylsma should have taken off his skirt and gone over there,” he said.
One of the instigators of the fight was the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. “Little goody two shoes [Crosby] goes into the corner and gives a shot to Schenn. Schenn was late to the party, he should have turned around and drilled him right away, but I guess better late than never,” Milbury said. “So you know, Crosby gets cross-checked, big whoop. He said after he came back from his 35th concussion, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore, I’m not going to get into this scrums, I’m going to stay away from that stuff.’ He couldn’t help himself because there’s a little punk in Crosby. He’s not the perfect gentleman. He’s not the sweet kid you see in interviews with his hat pulled down over his eyes. I’d say screw him, hit him.”
Just ask any non-Penguins fan you know. There is nothing likable about this team. They whine, they dive, and the refs back them up. And it goes beyond the players, it is an organization-wide epidemic. Mario Lemieux bitches directly to Bettman about how he can’t stand the dirty and play in the league–while employing Matt Cooke, Aaron Asham, Mike Rupp, Eric Godard and Steve MacIntyre. Sure, the Flyers have or have Chris Pronger, Dan Carcillo, Aaron Asham, Jody Shelley, Tom Sestito, Zac Rinaldo and Scott Hartnell since that time, but they’ve never ranted about how disgusted they were with the state of the league. Mario did. Earlier this year they asked their fans when they joined the bandwagon.
So, congratulations Pittsburgh. You’ve managed to galvanize fans, analysts and executives around the league behind the Flyers. That’s not an easy thing to do.