Starkey: Pens corner market on 'hometown discounts'
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It's a pretty good bet that a professional athlete is lying when he makes one of the following proclamations:
• “It's not about the money.”
• “Free agency? I love it too much here to ever leave.”
There is one place, and maybe one place only, where those words consistently ring true: The Penguins' locker room.
These guys have left enough money on the table to buy their own franchise. They tell of former teammates who left for bigger paychecks wishing they could come back (Rob Scuderi just did).
How is this happening?
Players will tell you it's a combination of things: The city's livability, the chance to win each year, the way the organization treats people, the chance to play with two of the world's best players, the camaraderie. All of that and more.
Start with the city. That might sound hokey, but when Pascal Dupuis sacrifices maybe $400,000 annually to accept the Penguins' four-year, $15 million offer, I listen.
“You notice that people who go away to college, go away to work, end up coming back to Pittsburgh,” Dupuis said. “I've been here for six years, and I can see why. I've made a lot of friends away from hockey. My kids have made a lot of friends. By the time this contract is done, it'll hopefully be 10 years.”
But what about the money?
“How much more do I need?” Dupuis said. “I thought of it that way. Do you want to mess with how things are working for the chance to get $200,000, $300,000 or maybe $400,000 more a year? I didn't.”
We can disagree with some recent Penguins decisions but cannot dispute that ownership and management have created an alluring atmosphere for players. Right down to the smallest details.
“You guys don't even know,” Dupuis said. “We have the biggest stick budget in the NHL by about a million. Everybody is A1 — the athletic trainers, the equipment guys. Anything you need, you'll get.”
In the locker room, it starts at the top. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have kissed many millions of dollars goodbye on their past two contracts. They also set a daily example at the rink.
“They work their (rear ends) off,” Dupuis said. “You always know who the leaders are.”
More of the many hometown-discount tales:
• Chris Kunitz just finished a season in which he was named a first-team NHL all-star. What might another good season have gotten him in a league where Alexander Semin makes $7 million and creaky Vincent Lecavalier just signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract in Philly?
We'll never know. Kunitz accepted a paltry $125,000 raise on his new deal — up to $3.85 million per year, or more than $700,000 less than Lecavalier.
Granted, $3.85 million is a lot of money to me and you (assuming you are not Bill Gates). In NHL terms, it's an unbelievable bargain.
• Brooks Orpik could have taken more money in New York (Rangers) or Los Angeles the last time his contract expired.
• Kris Letang might have gotten, what, $10 million more had he waited to test the market next summer, especially if he had a Norris Trophy in tow?
Letang isn't given to elaborate quotes, but he opened up to the Trib's Rob Rossi about why sticking around was important to him.
“There are no worries here,” Letang said. “Not like in New York, with the media. Not like in Montreal, where you can't go to dinner without everybody knowing what you had to eat. Yeah, in Montreal, it would have been fun to play in my hometown, but it would have been tough for my family.”
Letang meant no disrespect to the great cities of Montreal or New York, but as Dupuis said, the comfort level here is priceless.
“The Penguins treat their players well, but Mario and Ray do great things for players' families, as well,” Letang said. “I've seen that with guys like Dupuis and Geno. I thought about all that. Maybe it's the same way other places. I don't know. I know what it's like here.
“I want to win. I also want to be where it feels right.”
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Rossi: After L.A., NFL should tread carefully
- Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets
- Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
- Oncologists wary of scaled-back guidelines in cancer screenings
- Neighbor arrested after McKeesport house fire, authorities say
- Kennywood fanatic, 82, rides Jack Rabbit 95 times in a row
- Unquestionable courage & sacrifice
- Early success in White House race a pleasant surprise for Carson
- Posthumous election wins have happened in Western Pa., nation
- Motorist killed in Armstrong County rollover crash
- Memorial Day service in National Cemetery of the Alleghenies still growing