Penguins News - May 10, 1999

Web petitions pouring in to save the Penguins

By Mark Houser

A Hollywood writer and a U.S. government economist have collected more than 17,000 signatures in 10 days on their Internet petition drive to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

The name Jason Karsh probably isn't on the lips of Tinseltown's bigger agents. Few are likely to read the music reviews he writes for an Internet audiophile magazine, much less the essays he posts on his personal Web page.

And though his business cards say "economist," North Allegheny High School graduate R.J. Ackerman concedes he's more of a computer trainer for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., than a would-be Alan Greenspan.

But their petition drive is impressing people nevertheless.

"I think what (Karsh) is doing is phenomenal," said Bill Peduto, a spokesman for Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Cohen.

Besides collecting names and addresses of people who support keeping the troubled hockey franchise in Pittsburgh, the "Save the Pens" online petition drive (, which began April 30, urges signatories to contact Cohen and other local officials.

The volume of responses is increasing steadily, Peduto said. Fifteen overnight e-mails were waiting for Cohen on Friday morning, he said, with about two more coming in each hour. Cohen himself has signed the online petition.

"No one," Peduto said, "has ever used the city e-mail system like this guy."

Karsh, 26, has never been to Pittsburgh. He has, however, been a Penguins fan since he was a boy growing up in Denver. His father took him to a match between Pittsburgh and the now-defunct Colorado Rockies, in which the intermission ice show featured a live penguin mascot. That did it.

"When you're real little, that's really compelling," Karsh said.

Bad memories linger from 1982, he said, when the Rockies' new owners moved the team to East Rutherford and redubbed them the New Jersey Devils. So the financial difficulties that threaten the Penguins galvanized Karsh to do something, to show that support for the team stretches beyond the 412 and 724 area codes.

He contacted Ackerman, whom he met online. Ackerman maintains the "Let's Go Pens!" Web site (, a fan page with a searchable database of the final scores from every Penguins game since the team's Oct. 11, 1967, opener (Montreal 2, Pens 1).

Ackerman agreed to design the electronic petition. Karsh is handling public relations, sending mass e-mails, contacting the media and trying to raise awareness of the effort.

Karsh said he hopes to collect more than 30,000 signatures - enough people to fill the Igloo twice - by the end of May. Then he intends to mail a printout of the list to league and city officials and Civic Arena landlord SMG Inc.

The National Hockey League wants to dissolve the franchise by early June if it has not received an acceptable reorganization plan.

Karsh and Ackerman have collected signatures of Penguins fans hailing from hockey-mad countries including Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia, as well as some places where the climate is not as conducive to the sport, such as the kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa.

"This petition's about all the fans that don't have a voice," Karsh said.

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