Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com
And So It Goes
April 10, 2002
For the record, that line is stolen. All right, maybe the more colloquial term would be "re-purposed," but it means the same thing at the end of the day, even if it is just in homage.
The line is borrowed, if you will, from Linda Ellerbee.
That you vaguely remember her, or have perhaps never heard of her at all, says everything you'll ever need to know about fame and just how fleeting it really is.
She was an award-winning journalist, still is in fact, but because she doesn't occupy a top slot on network television any more, her name is no longer part of the daily dialogue. It's the way of the world.
Time marches on, mercilessly, blessedly, consistently, and as one steps aside, there is always another to take their place. Faces change, eras end, and so it goes.
Over the course of their last two home games of this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will put to rest one fantastic decade of hockey. But even though the Stanley Cup Playoffs will go on without the Penguins for the first time in twelve years, this doesn't mean the end of the season should be met with a shrug of the shoulders and a quick change of the channel.
Titles from the Patrick Division, the Prince of Whales Conference, the Northeast Division, and not one, but two Stanley Cups. Lemieux's 1000th point, and his 1600th; Francis' 1000th point, and his 1000th assist. These are the things that will be put to bed this week.
Eight coaches, including one who barely spoke the language, and one who will forever remind us that every day is a great day for hockey.
Four overtimes in Washington, five in Pittsburgh. Playoff series that didn't really begin until the Penguins were down three games to one. Two Hrdinas, one Kasparaitis. Another bankruptcy. The same Igloo.
The Hart, the Art Ross, the Selke, and the Masterton Trophies. The Lester B. Pearson Award and the Lady Byng.
And that only scratches the surface.
Still, as the Penguins, hurt and hapless, limp into the off-season with no post-season for the first time in twelve years, it will be a merciful end to a painful season. But it would be a mistake to send this team into the summer under a shower of distain for the way they've finished the year.
The Penguins might lose their final two home games, they may lose their final ten games overall, but that won't cheapen what this franchise has accomplished.
No single season could ever undo what has been one hell of a ride.
The Penguins have come a long way from the team that finished eight games below .500 in 1989-1990, and even further from the team that won a meager eighteen games in 1982-1983. They've become champions, and perhaps even more impressively, they've conditioned a town to expect greatness from their hockey team.
Now when the Penguins lose, fans wonder why instead of "by how much." Mario did that. So did Barrasso, Jagr, Coffey, Murphy, and all the others who found a way over the last eleven years.
Maybe the team has come just as far from the Stanley Cup team of 1990-1991, but that is just as much the point. This era is over.
New owners, new logos, and old habits. Great players, great characters, and new leases on life for guys like Martin Straka, Robbie Brown, Stephane Richer, and even Billy Tibbetts.
Cullen, Mullen, Paek, Park, the other Hatcherand Pronger, both the Ferraro brotherson the same team. Frank Pietrangelo. Petr Nedved. It's time to give it all one more day in the sun, then put it on the shelf because next year it's back to square one.
It may not have been a seamless parade of talent or effort, of triumph or success, but it has been over ten solid years of getting this team, our team, to where the Penguins believe they belong; to where Pittsburgh now believes their team should rightfully be. For that, the team should be applauded.
The Penguins know the way they've finished this season is unacceptable, the fans have told them as much in no uncertain terms and so has the press.
No one is going to confuse appreciating a decade of prosperity with supporting a few months of mediocrity. This just so happens to be the way it ends this time. Should that make the Penguins' turnaround any less impressive?
Next season it will start again, from the beginning. There will be new players, a new playoff streak, and a new era of Penguins' hockey. But for now, in these last two games, all that's left is the end of this chapter and everything that has meant to Penguin fans and the city of Pittsburgh. Whether we choose to treat this day with appreciation or derision is entirely up to us.
Such is the way it is in hockey. Such is the way it is in life. And so it goes.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and feels the last eleven years of Penguins' hockey will be remembered as one of the most successful periods in the history of Pittsburgh sports. He also feels the Penguins have the ability to duplicate that same success over the next eleven years.
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