Gorman: Talbot's talk makes for tough ticket
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Before Pittsburgh's political and sporting dignitaries could congratulate each other on bringing the Winter Classic to Heinz Field, Max Talbot pre-empted the party.
And all but assured a sellout.
If Talbot can't live off scoring two Game 7 goals to clinch the 2009 Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins forward might have a future in talk radio.
While expressing his "hate" for Alexander Ovechkin on Tuesday on the 105.9 The X Morning Show, Talbot used a word not fit for print to describe the Washington Capitals star and two-time NHL Most Valuable Player.
With that insult, Talbot intensified the league's most spirited rivalry and did more to sell Winter Classic tickets than anything NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Steelers chairman Art Rooney II, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said combined.
Bettman did nothing to detract from it, calling the Penguins and Capitals teams who "genuinely don't like each other." Capitals president Dick Patrick added that he respects the Penguins and their accomplishments, but "that doesn't mean we don't really dislike them on the ice and want to beat them."
Especially, now, on New Year's Day.
No matter what anybody says, this is no longer about the novelty of playing an outdoor hockey game in a football stadium, nor about the Steelers and Penguins forming a partnership to bring a big-time event to the city. It's become, to borrow a Bettman phrase, a "must-see moment."
"I'm sure after (yesterday), that will be the first quote everyone sees before the outdoor game," Capitals center David Steckel said. "But I don't think you need to build up the rivalry any more than it already is. It's great for the NHL. It's great for the City of Pittsburgh. And it's great for the two teams playing in it. Any more hype we can get to make this a bigger event, a bigger success, we're all for it."
Maybe not at the expense of their captain, but you get the point.
The Capitals haven't been shy about criticizing the Penguins - and captain Sidney Crosby, in particular - but Ovechkin has always seemed to revel in playing the role of villain. Now he gets to play the victim.
That it was Talbot who fired the salvo and not Penguins superstars Crosby or Evgeni Malkin doesn't matter to the Capitals.
"It's going to mean as much as if either one of those guys said it, at least in our locker room," Steckel said. "It's bulletin-board material in July. I'm sure there will be other stuff said, too. It'll play out."
While the Penguins can't be pleased with Talbot's timing, on behalf of the Pittsburgh media I'd like to suggest they give him a contract extension - if not for their sake, then ours. The guy is a peach.
Apparently, his distaste for Ovechkin dates back more than a year. Talbot accompanied Malkin, along with the Stanley Cup, to the 2009 NHL Awards Show, where he received a rude response when introduced to Ovechkin for the first time. So Talbot was only too happy that Ovechkin wasn't among the players to attend yesterday's news conference.
"Everyone's got their opinions of 'Ovie,'" Steckel said. "Even though he's Russian, he tries to adapt to North America. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, which most guys don't. Either you like it or you don't."
The Penguins obviously don't.
Nor do they care for the Capitals.
That makes for a great rivalry, and should make for a great Winter Classic.
"The spotlight is on these two teams every time they play," Crosby said. "This will add to it. This will be another storyline and another event with the two teams. I can't see it being more intense than it already is. If it is, then great. People are going to see a great hockey game."
One that, thanks to Talbot, is now the toughest ticket in town.
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.