It’s just an ordinary day here at National Hockey League Elementary School, as the Pittsburgh Penguins, the school’s star student, continues to ace all of his tests and be a model of in-class behavior to the rest of the students. He behaves well to the teachers and never misses a homework assignment, and heck, he even gives the teacher an apple every Monday morning. You will not find anything on his record—the report cards are spotless and parent-teacher conferences are always brief. The teachers, and more importantly, the principal, all love Pittsburgh, but ask any fellow student what they think, and you will hear a whole different story. You see, there is something behind all of that seemingly wonderful behavior. Out on the playground during recess, when the teachers are at lunch and the only supervision consists of two ragged old ladies who are only there for a paycheck and the chance to raise their adrenaline by screaming at unsuspecting children, Pittsburgh is always involved in certain, dangerous activities. Try to climb the jungle gym and he’ll pull on your legs. Stand at the top of the slide and try to sit down, and he’ll push you head first before you are ready to set yourself. Play dodge-ball and forget about it, Pittsburgh is going to throw the ball at your head. Then comes time for a kickball game, and Pittsburgh is running to first base. An outfielder grabs the ball and pegs him, knocking him to the ground. Pittsburgh gets up, and goes right to a teacher to complain about what has happened to him. An egregious abuse of such a wonderful student, who is never in trouble! The person who throws the ball gets a detention and a warning of a suspension. Pittsburgh gets a free ice cream cone at the end of lunch. Then comes another game of dodge-ball a week later, and you get struck in the face by guess who. Approaching the principal, not even a teacher, with your nose bleeding and tears running down your face, you tell him what happened, that the throw was intentional and Pittsburgh does it all the time—hurting people and then turning the tables and complaining when other people do it to him—and the principal tells you to suck it up and be a man, that your actions are bordering on that dreaded term for an elementary school student: tattle-tale. That’s what you are, after all. You just took a swipe at the school’s star student, and now you are labeled the whiner, and it is you who will be disciplined in the end. Can’t you just grow up and be a man!?
What has happened between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, and lately, the New York Rangers, is nothing short of the scenario described above, something probably every single one of us experienced in elementary school at one time or another. Craig Berube takes a shot at Crosby and Malkin being whiners, and what do you know, the NHL’s two golden boys turn the tables and it is Berube who is the whiner. The same exact thing happened last night with John Tortorella, using the same exact term—the only one perfectly fitting–as well as calling out the entire organization for being “arrogant”, and this afternoon, he was fined $20,000 for his words. Does anyone want to chip in and help pay it off?
The bias the league has shown the Penguins since the Crosby era began has always been disgusting, and what’s worse, totally in-your-face. You can complain about it all you want, you can call a spade a spade, and it does not matter, because it just does not exist. The NHL does not care how absolutely horrible and idiotic it makes them look—this is a situation that is a level slightly lower than if they were actually fixing games (not accusing them of it, but would you put it past them?). This is what people have to look forward to for the rest of Sidney Crosby’s career, because the preferential treatment will always be there. To ignore it would be foolish, because it would be too nauseating to suppress, but to speak out against it, my, my, how much worse off you will be—better have deep pockets because the Gestapo is on the prowl! At no other time has a coach been fined for calling a team something like “arrogant”, much less $20,000. Fined for using derogatory remarks or insults towards a player or questioning a referee’s call, most definitely. But to say the Penguins are arrogant and cough up a check that could by you a brand new Nissan Sentra with all the trimmings? Come on! Can we make this even more obvious than it already is?
The Penguins are not one of those teams liked by fans of other teams, like let’s say the Red Wings or Blackhawks. They are hated, detested. It is not jealousy as their bandwagon fans would lead you to believe, because your teams are sans Crosby and Malkin. No, it is because of the double-standard. Get away with murder and get away scott-free. That is the mindset people have when their team faces the Penguins. Give one of their players so much as a love tap, and get penalized or suspended. That is the other mindset. We seem to be forgetting the root of the problem here, or roots, I should say, because with Pittsburgh its always plural. Joe Vitale tries to kill Danny Briere and Brooks Orpik intentionally goes knee-on-knee with Derek Stepan, both late in blow-out games, and nothing is done. No fine, no suspension. Tortorella then says the word “arrogant” and there is your fine. Lovely, isn’t it? I would have thought that with the spotlight this has received, given even Mike Milbury’s comments a few days ago, the NHL would have finally had to cave in and do the right thing. Oh, who am I kidding? How arrogant of me…