Penguins Cup Chronicles: Peter Taglianetti
By Mike Palm
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011
With a 6-0 lead heading into the third period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, expectations for a loose locker room would have been wrong.
Defenseman Peter Taglianetti described it as just the opposite — until coach Bob Johnson offered some sage words.
"I forget the exact words, but it was something like, 'You guys have 20 minutes to be etched on the (Stanley) Cup, immortality in the NHL.' We're all just sitting there, guys are just bouncing up and down because everything was just pent up and couldn't get going," Taglianetti said last week. "He goes, 'This is what you live for, the whole nine yards.' And he stopped and looked around, and he goes, 'Don't (mess) it up.' It was the only time he ever swore. It was like the air was let out of the room."
The Penguins scored two more goals in the third period to clinch their first Stanley Cup.
Just six months earlier, Taglianetti said he couldn't have been farther from the chalice every player craves. Traded in the preseason from Winnipeg to Minnesota, he found himself worn down by an unfriendly locker room, gruff management, a change in ownership and the North Stars' lack of success.
Then, he got a call from Minnesota general manager Bobby Clarke.
"We had a game that night, so I just got home from practice," Taglianetti said. "I'm sitting down ready to eat and Bobby Clarke calls and says, his exact words: 'We traded you to Pittsburgh. Craig Patrick's calling in a couple minutes. Bye.' That was the end of the conversation."
The phone call was the start of a whirlwind day that resulted in Taglianetti and Larry Murphy in Pittsburgh. That night, Taglianetti was paired with the Penguins' top defenseman, Paul Coffey.
"I knew pretty much the whole locker room. Randy Gilhen was there; I played with him in Winnipeg," he said. "Kevin Stevens was there, Johnny Cullen, Scotty Young — we were all playing Boston College hockey or high school hockey against each other, so I knew all them. ... I walked in, and it felt like home."
q&a with Peter Taglianetti
On starting the season in Winnipeg:
(Hockey teams are) notorious for trading people during the season. Winnipeg at the time called me into the office, and they had just traded for Phil Housley at the time and they had Teppo Numminem, Fredrik Olausson and Dave Ellett as their four offensive guys that they wanted to run with, and Randy Carlyle was the old guard up there, and he was going to be the fifth, and they had their heavyweight fighter Shawn Cronin as their sixth. They said we're going to go with this, we're going to trade you. I said, well, if you trade me to someplace else in Canada, I'd rather stay here in Winnipeg. If you trade me to the States, that's fine, no big deal. They ended up trading me to Minnesota with three days left in training camp.
On his impressions of the North Stars:
At that time, they were hurting. Ownership-wise, Norm Green had just taken over the team. They were only drawing about 7,000 people a game. It was just a very tough situation for all the players there. We were stumbling right out of the gate, win a game, lose two, win a game, lose three, that type of scenario.
On the whirlwind day of Dec. 11:
About five minutes later, Craig Patrick called and said Larry Murphy and I are coming to Pittsburgh. It was like 12:30, we had a 3 o'clock flight, so we had to just take whatever duffle bags we could find, throw as much stuff as I could in them. The trainers met us at the airport with our hockey gear at 5:30, got to the rink at 6 and played at 7:30. It wasn't time to think.
On playing with Paul Coffey:
We got to the rink. Rick Paterson, the assistant coach, picked us up at the airport and we got right to the rink, probably about 6:15 or so. We got all our gear in there. They came in and said, Bob Johnson wants to talk to you, so I walked in. We just started talking for about five minutes. He said, 'I need someone to play with Paul Coffey on the right side. Can you do it?' I said, yeah, I played on the right side in Winnipeg. So it made a very easy transition. He said, OK, that's it. That was the end of that. Right away, you knew if he was going to be on the ice, he was going to be behind Mario's line. It's one of those, bang bang, you're playing with the best player in the world. It was a very, very strange but a great transition.
On playing with Mario Lemieux:
I played against him a couple times, maybe a half dozen times or so in Winnipeg. We didn't play the East that much in those days. Obviously, you saw him play, you saw him play in the Canada Cup series, you knew everything he could do. But it's funny, everything he does in a game, the stuff he does in practice wows you even more because it was day in and day out. When he got back playing, it took him a while to get his full stride in, once he got back and they made the next trade to send Johnny Cullen and Zarley (Zalapski) away and picked up Ronnie (Francis) and Ulfie (Samuelsson) and Grant Jennings, everything just kind of clicked. You could see (Mario) getting stronger and stronger, and his skills obviously never diminished, just game shape-wise, it took a little bit, and once he did, it was full bore ahead.
On suffering a collapsed lung in Edmonton:
The puck actually went cross crease into the corner, and I was skating, cutting in front of the goal, and I just got blind-sided. It was in like the first six minutes of the game. All of a sudden, it was like, whoa, you knew you were hurt and I didn't know what it was. I figured it was a bruise, no big deal, get up and go. So I kept playing and as the game wore on, it got harder to breathe. Maybe halfway through the third period, I looked at the trainer and said I can't breathe anymore. So they took me to the locker room. The doctor checked it out, and he said we've got to get you to the hospital, something's wrong. So I get to the hospital and the strength coach John Welday went with me in the cab. They took an X-ray, and they said your lung's collapsed. They told me what they wanted to do, and I said let me talk to the trainer just to make sure everybody's on the same page. That was probably a half hour after the game got over I talked to the trainer and they said they wanted to stick a needle in my chest to let the excess air out of the chest cavity. He said, yeah, yeah, have them do it. Once they took the air out, the lung collapsed even further. It was probably only working a quarter of the capacity, so they had to call the trainer back and say something happened, because they had to keep me here because I can't fly, they told me I can't do anything until they cut me in the side of the chest and stick this tube in and just poke your lung and put you on this machine that's like a little briefcase that blew your lung back up over a certain amount of time. So I was actually up there for about three days. They had me in intensive care, but it wasn't that bad. They had me there until it filled up enough that I could fly. Probably after about four days, I flew back to Pittsburgh.
Everybody knew I was fine. The Edmonton Oilers' trainers came by all the time, they called all the time to make sure if I needed anything. Once I got back, little kids see you come in the door and they want to jump on you. You're like, whoa, wait a minute. I've got kind of a cracked rib. It's all par for the course and you just go about your business as a dad and try to get back to playing.
On getting hit in the foot by Washington's Calle Johansson in the playoffs:
It hit me right in the top of the foot, right where you tie your skates. Once you put pressure on it, there's no meat at the top of your foot, so it's nothing but bone, and once you bruise that, it's hard to pad it because there's really nothing there to cushion it. You couldn't tie your skates, you couldn't do anything.
On the unusual solutions to his foot injury:
Skip Thayer, who was the medical trainer, we tried everything. We had all kinds of foams in the locker room — big foam, thin foam, high-density foam — so we tried everything, cutting doughnuts into it, and nothing seemed to work. The Canadian ski team sent this foam they used for the ski boots that the same thing happens. We call it lace bit where you get real raw right at the top there, where it starts cutting your skin. They have that with ski boots, so they have this special foam they use, and they thought that might work, and it didn't. NASA sent something, some foam they used with astronauts, and that didn't work. So we're sitting there and Skip was saying, 'When I was in Chicago as a trainer, Al Secord had some real bad lace bite like that, and they tried to figure stuff out. And they experimented with peanut butter. So all of a sudden, boom, hey, we'll try this. And it worked. We had a baggie, taped it up, so I was able to tie my skates.
On the team's defense:
I think any time when you have a high-scoring offense and the offensive guys on the team, your defense is going to be looked at as secondary. With our goalies, when Tommy (Barrasso) was playing, we didn't spend a whole lot of time in our defensive end, he was able to get the puck and fire it out and away you go, so the less time you spend in your end, the more you're going to spend in the offensive end. Tommy was playing outstanding at the time, and the times he couldn't play, Frankie (Pietrangelo) stepped in and he won a couple games for us. That's what backup goalies do, they're a different breed, they get put in under pressure. It's like, a lot of times when Mario wasn't playing, the team played a little differently because you knew you didn't have him in the lineup, and you had to play a little tighter game. Once you get to the playoffs, your defense ramps up anyway. Your forwards come back farther in the zone, they're a little more aggressive in their back-check, and it throws the other team off what they want to do. Once everybody starts playing together, you get confidence that anything can happen. The next thing you know, everybody starts playing well; guys were hurt and guys step up their play.
On being a Massachusetts native playing the Bruins in the playoffs:
Once we found out we were playing, back then there were no cell phones, they hadn't really come out yet, so your house phone was ringing off the wall. Once you roll into a city, you sit there and say all right, you got to get some rest, and then you worry about crank calls and all that kind of stuff. You kind of pick and choose who you're going to call back because it's very, very hard to accommodate everybody and you hate saying no to people, so you have to say that you couldn't get the phone call. There's a lot of times where it's people like, I'm a friend of so-and-so, who's a friend of so-and-so, and he thought you might be able to get some tickets. You don't even know this person, and they're going to call you anyway.
On playing Minnesota in the Stanley Cup Finals:
That was more disappointment, and I think it turned to bitter afterwards. When I was in Winnipeg, we were all right, we were a pretty decent team. But we were with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers in their heyday. You really didn't get a sniff at the end result that you wanted, which is to make a run for the Cup. Then you get to Minnesota and the Norris Division. At the time, the Norris Division wasn't the elite, it was probably the fourth of the four divisions as far as the teams, their winning and their notoriety and all that kind of stuff. So you go there and Winnipeg treated you unbelievable, it was like you were part of their family and they just rolled out the red carpet the way they'd help you out. The owner's in the locker room talking to you, the GM was always around. It was a great atmosphere, and we had a good bunch of guys that really liked each other and cared. If somebody bought a house and they were going to put sod down for a lawn, the whole team would show up and help out. And you get to Minnesota, hardly anybody talked to anybody. The GM was Bobby Clarke at the time, and he was probably the most non-friendly person that you'd ever want to meet in your life. He just could care less about anything. Then you have Bob Gainey, who I respect as a player, never smiled, never talked to anybody. He had assistant coaches who all they would do is yell and scream. It was just a bad atmosphere, and then you don't win, and it makes it even worse. When you do something everyday, seven days a week and there's no holidays, there's no vacations, you've got to want to be there all the time, and it just made it very tough. All of a sudden, when Bobby Clarke called and said, 'Hey, we traded you. Craig Patrick's calling you. Bye,' boom, and hung the phone up. The whole thing just turned your stomach on professional sports in a whole. Fortunately, it was just the organization because you get here in Pittsburgh, boom, it's totally different, just like it was in Winnipeg. They treated you great, they were nice, they'd do anything for you, they were friendly. It just made it that much easier when you had to get moved again for the second time in two months.
On the differences between Bob Johnson and Bob Gainey:
And from Bobby Clarke to Craig Patrick. I mean, totally different, from the way they thought, to the way they acted, to the way they talked to you. Bob Gainey was a very defensive-minded guy, no nonsense. You couldn't even crack a joke in practice without them staring at you like they wanted to take your head off. Then I got here, and Bob Johnson's one of those guys who never yelled, never swore. You lose 6-1 and he'd find something positive to say about what you did do in the game. It was very totally different styles and personalities, and if you watch that season, even after I got traded, (the Penguins) were still kind of stumbling along, winning games, losing games, winning games, losing games. But all of a sudden, you see in February, we started winning and playing a better brand of hockey. You get more excited and the momentum started to pick up. Then all of a sudden, it clicks and this guy really means what he's saying, he doesn't get mad. You're waiting for him to blow up at you, and he never did. This guy is really true to what he says, and you start buying more and more into the philosophies. He really didn't bother you, if you were down 4-1, there was never any panic on the bench, never any panic in anybody's voice, oh, we'll come back and win. That confidence just grew in you in winning those games all the time.
On recording two assists in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals:
Goal 1: It was off a faceoff. I came out to meet it at the middle of the ice, everybody was just charging on me so I just threw a little pass to Ulfie (Samuelsson). Ulfie was just trying to get it on net, just a little wrist shot. Everybody was just charging to the front of the net, it got right by Jon Casey, who never even saw it. And we were off and running.
Goal 3: I brought it up the ice. There was a turnover in the neutral zone. I brought it into the middle of the ice, and I took a shot and it got blocked. And I got the thing back, and Joey (Mullen) was going down on my left-hand side, so I just laid it out there for him. He was a right-handed shot and he just one-timed it. My part of it was very nondescript, but Joey was one of those goal scorers that if he had two inches to shoot in, the puck would just turn on its edge and find its way in the net. He had that knack doing it. All of a sudden, it's like, wow, I can't believe we're up like this in the clinching game. Everything kind of just snowballed for us. No matter what Minnesota did, they couldn't get anything started.
On the third period of Game 6:
There were like 12 minutes left in the period and it was 8-0, and it just dragged. If you watch the game, everybody's shifts were like 20 seconds long. It was dump the puck out, get off the ice. It was unbelievable. I would say the last 12 minutes were the longest period I've been around in my life.Additional Information:
ACQUIRED: Dec. 11, 1990 • Minnesota trades Taglianetti and D Larry Murphy for D Chris Dahlquist and D Jim Johnson
PENGUINS DEBUT: Dec. 11, 1990, vs. Chicago
PENGUINS 1990-91 STATS: 39 games, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, 93 PIM
PENGUINS CAREER STATS: 167 games, seven goals, 28 assists, 35 points, 338 PIM
WHAT HE'S UP TO NOW: Works for P.J. Dick, Trumbull and Lindy Paving
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