We Threw a Blizzard Party, and Rob Rossi Got Left Out in the Cold

A wailing wall ought to be erected to accommodate all the whining from Pittsburgh’s press and message board puckheads: Rob Rossi, a hockey writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, is the latest to take up the we’re so aggrieved cause, on his blog on Monday, in a diatribe against the NHL’s decision to contest Sunday’s Caps-Penguins’ tilt. Because there was so much snow, you know.

“The NHL and NBC were willing to sacrifice the safety of everybody at Verizon Center on Sunday,” Rossi thunders, “and both companies should consider themselves fortunate that blood is not on their hands.” [italics to emphasize hyperbolic idiocy]

Just a wee bit alarmist, wouldn’t you say?

Ted Leonsis believes the NHL made the right call, and so do I. And so do about 17,000 hockey fans who ultimately made their way to Verizon Center on Sunday, including some from Pittsburgh.

The first thing I noticed about Sunday’s crowd was its size: early on, it was commendably full given the size of the storm — a solid 14- or 15,000 for puck-drop. (Or: more than is in attendance in Sunrise for any given Panthers’ home opener.) But it also became apparent that there were many late arrivals (thanks partly to Metro). And so by the time Ovi tallied to cut the Penguins’ lead to 4-3, the building was 85 or 90 percent full, and as loud as any playoff game I remembered last spring. A true indictment of the league’s decision would have been to drop the puck before a half empty building.

Among the throng were no small number of small children, many in red Capitals’ jerseys; meaning, necessarily, that their parents took stock of the road conditions, bundled up their pride and joy and secured them in trucks and sport utility vehicles, and made off for the hockey rink for the big game, undoubtedly allotting extra time and caution. In other words, they behaved rather much like Canadians do for approximately 60 percent of the hockey patronized up in the Great White North. Our SUVs, Mr. Rossi, operate just like the ones Canucks drive.

Which perhaps explains this:

As best as I can tell, there were zero fatalities resulting from commuting to and from the game. Number of satisfied patrons, young and old, outfitted in red? Everyone. In fact, a not too uncommon sentiment shared by OFB readers who attended the game was that it ranked among the most enjoyable and memorable regular season games they’d ever witnessed, and that they were glad they’d made the sacrifices they did to get to the game.

It was a classic game that never would have occurred had it been left to NHL commissioner Rob Rossi.

That hockey players are inculcated in snow and ice — often of the deep and treacherous and enduring sort — throughout their careers is irrelevant to Rossi. I thought the NHL was better than the minor leagues, he snivels. But this is not incidental to this discussion. Mr. Rossi would be well served to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and in particular digest the exhibit there paying homage to the hockey family. A full-sized station wagon with a facsimile family seated within is meant to illustrate the typically dire drives hockey families must make in pre-dawn snow and ice just to transport mites-to-midgets to winter weekday practices. These conditions are a part of hockey’s DNA. Less so, apparently, that of Pittsburgh sportswriters.

As part of his teeth-gnashing Rossi also notes that Saturday’s scheduled NBA game at Verizon Center was postponed. He fails to mention that both clubs were out of D.C. and needed to commute great distances to get here. Not only were the Capitals in place for Sunday but so too were the game officials, who’d worked Friday night’s game against the Thrashers, as was virtually all of the talent NBC required for the television broadcast. Here Rossi simply has his facts wrong.

Personally, I take great pride in the Capitals playing not one but two games this past weekend in and around blizzard conditions, but they were hardly alone. Georgetown played a basketball game Saturday at Verizon Center. Maryland hosted ACC rival North Carolina at Comcast Center on Sunday. It was right and natural for the Penguins to make a real good faith effort to get the D.C. for Sunday’s game, for that’s what professional hockey teams do. And in point of fact, their 2:00 a.m. arrival time isn’t appreciably different from the time that a Capitals’ club would arrive home from a night road game in Florida with another game to play that new day. Pittsburgh’s having no morning skate on Sunday can hardly be argued to be a cataclysmic disadvantage; Bruce Boudreau I thought made a compelling point in suggesting that Pittsburgh was at an advantage in having skated Saturday, whereas his guys — because of the weather — could not. It sure looked to me like Pittsburgh had the better legs for much of Sunday. Especially in the final five minutes of regulation play — when, following the logic of some embittered Penguins’ supporters, the visitors presumably should have been at their worst.

It might have served Rossi well to listen more closely to the reflections of the Penguins’ players and most particularly their coach on the subject. Rossi chose to ignore Dan Bylsma’s point of view, and his rant — the heart of which is that the integrity of Sunday’s game was compromised — is rendered ridiculous by virtue of it:

“I don’t think [the travel] had anything to do with it,” Bylsma claimed. “I thought our team had plenty of jump. I don’t think it was a factor at all . . . We had a travel day. Most of these guys have done that quite a bit in their career in the American [Hockey] League or growing up. I don’t think it was at all out of the ordinary for any of these guys.”

Could it be any plainer? Sunday was a day after a big blizzard. The teams, officials, broadcasters and the overwhelming majority of fans all made it to the rink, all things considered, just fine. Drop the puck, and let us get some semblance of normalcy returned to our lives. And a not so insignificant aspect to carrying off the game Sunday: for some patrons, such as yours truly, Verizon Center served as an oasis of warmth and comfort from power-deprived homes. It was, in both a real and spiritual sense, a shelter from the storm. I arrived at the rink early and stayed late writing, and I believe I have my health this morning for it.

photo by Jeff Lautenberger

The rationale for playing Sunday is actually deeper than the weekend’s snowfall. First, that Washington had a big hockey game against our biggest rival and was going to carry it off despite the weather hardships was for many of the region’s hockey fans a special source of civic pride and perhaps somewhat of a rallying point: we are a nascent and emerging hockey town, and so I think it speaks wonderfully of our new passion that we damn near filled that rink to the rafters after being so buried by snow. This game set against this kind of storm 10 years ago wouldn’t have produced what we saw in Verizon Center on Sunday. I think it was wonderful for all of the United States and much of Canada to see that. I witnessed men and women walking miles around plowed snowbanks merely to gain access to public transportation to get to the game. I won’t soon be forgetting that. I don’t think many of them were imagining their blood being on anybody’s hands.

I imagine no small number of husbands and boyfriends did some serious digging to get the car liberated for Sunday’s game for their loved ones, their in-love-with-hockey loved ones. I imagine all of them arrived home Sunday evening damn glad they did. This victory, over this team, under such conditions, was more special. We are not compelled to apologize for it. Nor should the league.

But to speak on a level beyond the playing field, it is also good for society to absorb Mother Nature’s cruelest blows and, like the grittiest of grinding fourth-liners, rise up resolved to press on. Even with our games.

Mostly, though, I like what Sunday said about our sport. For Rob Rossi, Sunday was about the NHL cavalierly grabbing for dough. For me, it was about hockey just being hockey. Pretty good hockey, too, wasn’t it?

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This entry was posted in Hockey Towns, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to We Threw a Blizzard Party, and Rob Rossi Got Left Out in the Cold

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention On Frozen Blog › We Threw a Blizzard Party, and Rob Rossi Got Left Out in the Cold -- Topsy.com

  2. Eric says:

    Just more evidence for my theory that Pittsburgh sports fans (not just hockey) are the worst sports fans in America. They are spoiled. They make excuses for their favorite team’s poor performance days prior and after the actual contests. They are generally uneducated and inexperienced in games they claim to be experts in. I can spend more time talking to and have actually enjoyed conversations with Philly or New York fans. There are very few Pittsburgh fans that I can stand for longer than a minute. This homer reporter is just another example.

  3. DMG says:

    Wait… 15,000 > 18,802?

  4. PJ says:

    You mean everyone doesn’t have Tampa Bay weather? Maybe they should move all the teams to where there isn’t any of that nasty white stuff, or cold, or that awful slush that ruins my pretty boots.

  5. Megan says:

    Sour grapes. That’s all it is. Hockey is a winter sport and unfortunately, snow comes with it.

  6. GhostBear says:

    Not *every* Pittsburgh fan is a douche. There are quite a few that respect the Caps and their talent; one even admits it.

  7. pepper says:

    Alarmist, indeed. Also given the time of Rossi’s blog publication, disingenuous.

    And, yeah, a great statement and source of pride for Caps country, men, women and children, all, to show up.

  8. Joe says:

    Sorry, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m a Caps fan but the decision to play that game was highly irresponsible. There is NO reason that fans should have to risk life and limb to get to a hockey game (or lose their ticket money). And the league and team should have heeded the urging of the local governments, which were consistently warning people to stay inside for their safety and to assist the cleanup. Believe it or not, there is a real world outside hockey.

  9. Right you are, Joe, there is indeed a world outside of hockey. Relative to Caps’ hockey, it’s just not nearly as entertaining and interesting.

    When you come out of your winter hibernation, join us for the fun.

  10. sabresrule says:

    irresponsible and greedy. how can you tell people to stay off the road, but come on down to the VC

  11. penguin pete says:

    rossi is a tool. always has been.

    however, i do have to argue the rant against pittsburgh sports fans. all fans are the same. every team has classless fans. every team has die-hard fans. every team has bandwagon fans. every team has loyal fans. every team has ignorant fans. every team has knowledgeable fans. every team has a blog.

    not every team, however, has a great blog.

    yours does. suck it.

  12. Continued great comments from the opposition.

    penguin pete is a great commentor. suck it.

    😉

  13. Sabresrule — You from Buffalo? If so, the irony is taller than our snowfall, your bringing such vaginal sensibilities to this discussion.

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