Pens fans have had this date marked on their calendars since July 1st. After the chaos of #JagrWatch and the stunning news not an hour after the Jagr news broke that fan favorite Max Talbot would also be joining JJ on the Philadephia Flyers, the hate for the Flyers that Pens fans hold onto has increased exponentially, at least for some.
Some fans are on the side of nostalgia for years gone by, years when fans dreamed that even though Jagr had been traded in order to free up money to keep players like Marty Straka on the team’s payroll that one day, the number 68 would join 66 in the rafters above the ice. (Man, would I pay good money to see Marty Straka play hockey again!)
That dream will likely never be realized. But some fans will still cheer Jagr tonight as he takes the ice, among the boo-ing and heckling. The same goes for Max Talbot, who famously shushed the Philadelphia crowd in the playoffs and went on to carve out his legacy with the Pens with his performance in the Stanley Cup finals. Fans loved Max Talbot. Some felt betrayed by his decision to go toPhiladephia.
Others, like myself, couldn’t have cared less. A low production forward off the payroll, making it possible to keep a versitle player like Pascal Dupuis if fine by me. I’m more stunned by what the Flyers offered Talbot considering his performance in the two years following the Cup, where he was virtually invisble on the ice, even for a third or fourth liner.
People wanted to keep Talbot because he was a good personality in the locker room and good for team moral. I am against this line of thinking. The Pens have a great group of personalities that produce. This is also the reason I was vehemently against our beloved flightless birds signing JJ. His attitude is abysmal at best and doesn’t mesh with this new era of Penguins. His ego is too big for a team of this caliber. I feel he would have been toxic to the team’s chemistry. I could be completely wrong, but that’s just how I feel. (Would he have called Crosby “Little Mario” as he so affectionately refers to Claude Giroux?)
The most confusing thing about the whole Jagr incident is that he has cited multiple reasons for why he chose Philadelphia. I don’t know that I have heard him give a consistent answer in each interview as to why he decided not to accept the Pens offer. He said his heart was in Pittsbugh, then on 24/7 said that he had to follow his heart (to Philadelphia). So he chose the city of Brotherly Love over the City of Champions. We all know why: Money. And that is fine. This is a business. This is the way he earns his living. But just say it, man.
Rivalries are created more by fans than the teams, but the cross-state rivalry is one of the best in hockey and is one of the things that makes the sport worth watching. It creates the atmosphere that fans relish and players feed off of. It’s the perfect storm. Fans are going to blow the roof off of Consol tonight. Count on it.
This game will be something most of us will remember for a long time.