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Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com

Two for the Road

November 15, 2001

Earlier this week, when Pittsburgh Penguins' broadcaster Mike Lange was rightly inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame, he reiterated one of those fundamental truths that is so obvious most people forget it completely. Lange intimated how lucky and privileged he felt knowing that his job was different every single day. Because each night and each contest bring something unforeseen, perhaps even something never witnessed before, Lange felt grateful to have his own unique story to tell at every turn.

Too often, the word 'fun' gets lost in everyday life, it then becomes imperative that the rest of us have someone of Lange's wisdom available to remind us that our surroundings aren't just varying shades of the same grey; they're black and they're white, they're red and they're blue, and that, yes, it can be fun.

Lange touched upon the idea that if you can make your work something you love to do, not only will you be happier, those who work around you will be happier, and your work and your life will in turn reflect a sense of joy and wonder.

Take Alexei Kovalev for example. In his tenth year in the league, Kovalev could easily be going through the motions just to collect a paycheck. He has the talent, certainly he could coast his way to a very profitable, very nondescript career. Or he could have the time of his life.

After the minor knee surgery which had him on the shelf for weeks, Kovalev has more than merely come back to contribute a few key minutes a night until his conditioning is up to speed. No, Kovalev has decided instead to take over, scoring six goals through six consecutive periods of play.

A job often becomes just a job, something to kill time and sustain a mostly drab existence, but it doesn't have to be that way. Like golf, where a confluence of tedium can converge upon you and suck the life from what should otherwise be a really good time, life, too, has its own way of lulling you into submission. There are so many things to remember to do. Arm straight, head down, knees bent, beer down; go home, make dinner, go to work, go to school—and on and on. Before you know it, your cranial capacity has locked up, you've forgotten the basic premise of the sport, and you're hooking the ball into the clubhouse with alarming consistency. Fact is, no matter how serious the game, it's still only a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

Thankfully the Penguins have not just Lange, but Kovalev to remind them of exactly this. Hockey is a game, it should be fun, and the more fun you have, the better chance you have to win—something Kovalev seems to have grasped in spades.

With an infectious demeanor and a blistering wrist shot, Kovalev seems to be personally thanking every single Penguin for their stellar defensive showing in his absence. In his first two games back from injury, Kovalev's consecutive hat tricks have single-handedly outscored the Atlantic Division leading New York Islanders and the reigning Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils by a combined score of 6-4. How's that for fun?

With Kovalev out for weeks, the Penguins were given a crash course in responsibility and what once took Kevin Constantine over a season to teach, new Head Coach Rick Kehoe branded into the collective conscious in days. If this team has any designs on seriously contending for hockey's ultimate accolade the Penguins must at least lease a defensive posture and they've got to play hard at both ends of the ice. Mario said so himself after his team was ousted from the playoffs by the Devils six months ago, the Penguins need a system. Now they've got one, it's called teamwork.

This is a small market team, one that does not and will not have the money to bring in the hired guns to spring them into the Stanley Cup Finals. Therefore, if the Penguins have any realistic designs on winning it all, they have to be more cohesive than the Colorado Avalanche, more disciplined than the New Jersey Devils, and they need to have as much fun as humanly possible.

The word 'professional' is not synonymous with the terms 'stodgy' or 'conservative.' It simply means that you get paid for what you do, and if you're doing what you love there is no reason to be remotely conservative about it. Thus, if the collective words and actions of Mike Lange and Alexei Kovalev this week should suggest anything to this team, they appear simply to offer this.

Do what you love, and do it with every thing you have.

To wit, if the past few days have been able to remind this team of this oft forgotten truth and nothing more, there is the real possibility that for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the fun may have only just begun.

Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and believes Alexei Kovalev and Mike Lange to be two of the greatest talents in Pittsburgh today. He also believes in having as much fun as allowed by law—something which should really come as no surprise to any of the lawyers he keeps on permanent retainer.

Back to Karsh's Column List


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