Share This Page

The Boys of Winter return: But challenges await

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh Penguins fans will welcome Saturday's season opener in Philadelphia as surely as local restaurants, bars and hotels deprived of hockey-related business will welcome Wednesday's home opener. But this season shortened by a 113-day lockout poses stiff on- and off-ice challenges for both the Pens and the National Hockey League.

With superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both finally healthy, the Penguins are Las Vegas bookmakers' Stanley Cup favorite. The team has tried to soothe hard feelings over the protracted labor dispute. Penguins ownership apologized publicly, admitted fans free to this week's practices and scrimmage, and is offering discounts and freebies on merchandise and concessions during early home games.

A strong draw leaguewide, the Pens must do well enough in the compressed 48-game regular season to make the playoffs, then avoid another disappointing first-round exit — for the sake of both their fans and NHL TV ratings.

Meanwhile, the team must adjust its business and financial plans for this short season, yet maintain the capacity to re-sign Malkin and top defenseman Kris Letang, who can become unrestricted free agents in July 2014.

With the Penguins' outlook among the brightest of any NHL team, their fans are fortunate indeed. Still, the lockout didn't help the NHL in its long struggle to win over fans in less hockey-crazed markets — and all concerned must hope that self-inflicted setback never will be repeated.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.