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Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com

Eighty-two Chances

October 3, 2001

You weren't in Lake Placid, New York, on February 22, 1980. You weren't in Pittsburgh on December 31, 1988, or in Minneapolis on May 25, 1991, and you weren't a few miles from Green River, Utah, on September 11, 2001.

Too bad.

There isn't a major U.S. city within a hundred miles in any direction of Green River, Utah. Salt Lake, Denver, Vegas; all are between five and ten hours away with no traffic. Occasionally those who find themselves in Green River make it off I-70 and into the little town diner, but usually it's just gas, a quick squeegee of the windows, and back to the trip.

Nobody ever stops the car or turns off the highway much before they get to Green River. Why would you, there's nothing there. Just rocks. And dirt. Once in a while, the odd desert varmint makes its way up onto a rock for a bit of the midday sun, or maybe it ventures out for a cool breeze late at night, but that's about the extent of the activity here, save the asphalt in the distance where everyone is just passing through.

On September 11 this barren piece of Utah was perhaps the perfect place to be. For generations, well over a hundred acres of America have been oblivious to pretty much every one of the nation's events, and this day was no different. Desert lizards don't care about boxcutters on airplanes, they never will.

Here there was no heartache, no horror, no rubble, just the same existence this desert has known forever. It's noble in a way, desirable in others. Yet it also means that this land has never known so many of the thousand little things that make life so beautiful.

This dirt never heard about Herb Brooks, Jim Craig, or Mike Eruzione. These rocks never saw Mario Lemieux score all five different ways in a single game against New Jersey, and those varmints certainly never watched the Pittsburgh Penguins climb all the way back from chained-door broke to hugging the Stanley Cup in Point State Park.

There were ways to avoid September 11; there were and still are, but how many other things would need to be sacrificed for the privilege?

Mario Lemieux's drive toward reclaiming the mantle of best player in the game started on December 27, 2000, but that was only the beginning. The next step in that quest begins when he takes the draw to open the season against the Colorado Avalanche tonight. It will be the first season-opening faceoff Mario has been on the ice for since 1996, and what follows will be eighty-two chances for the rest of the world to witness the sublime side of history.

The Penguins come into this season with their most balanced team in years. While the defense is undoubtedly thin, Kip Miller and German Titov never equaled offensive balance no matter what you were told, and the over-tested/under-tested goaltending tandem of Garth Snow and Jean-Sebastien Aubin inspired something, but it assuredly wasn't confidence. This year, however, hope lies in the still-surprising skill of the Penguins' second line (who capped last season with career years for Martin Straka, Alexei Kovalev, and Robert Lang). This year, promise is found in Johan Hedberg and the success he had in his first NHL post-season. This year, Mario Lemieux is back on the ice from October to April—and beyond.

Arguably the single best player ever to pick up a hockey stick will be playing in Pittsburgh again this year, this time from day one. This will offer eighty-two nights to explain icing to a girlfriend and eighty-two reasons to get a husband off the couch. This will provide eighty-two excuses to take a son, daughter, niece, or nephew to their first hockey game ever, and eighty-two occasions to savor the unexpected.

Beginning tonight there will be eighty-two chances to experience something unforgettable and you can use Mario Lemieux as the excuse to make it happen.

For every misery that you could avoid by sequestering yourself in an isolated middle-of-nowhere, there are a hundred triumphs you'd have to willingly let pass you by as well. For every anguish you might skirt, there is a grace, a beauty, a grandeur, and a kinship you'd be forced to concede. Maybe such moments would be small and you could live without them, but maybe they'd be grand and you shouldn't have to.

The choice is yours and, starting tonight, you will have another eighty-two chances to decide exactly what to do with the opportunity.

Please, if you need a moment or two to make your decision, take your time. The rocks our near Green River, Utah, will wait.

Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and believes that it's the beginning of another hockey season, that Mario's playing, and that it's simply a great time to be alive.

Back to Karsh's Column List


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