Collier: Why was NHL Eastern Conference final schedule such a secret?

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Despite the pitiless absence of official confirmation, Saturday is the day.

More likely it will be Saturnight, at 8.

It will be actual hockey but why get ahead of ourselves. After all, until late Tuesday night, the National Hockey League chose not to reveal the dates for the Eastern Conference final.

That schedule, maybe you've noticed, was held captive nearly as long as Mandela.

Of course, that changed.

An NHL factotum emerged from league hindquarters about midnight and announced that Game 1 between the Penguins and the Boston Bruins will be this Saturday.

Not Saturday, Aug. 3.

Why the hurry, really?

The Penguins took Tuesday off and made it sound as if they were headed for the Bahamas.

Dan Bylsma's team could have been ready to play Game 1 Tuesday night, as could Claude Julien's Bruins, and certainly tonight would have been perfectly comfortable and logical, to say nothing of Thursday night or Friday night.

But, while the league office fretted over television positioning, arena issues and a Western Conference final that will include residents of California, Eastern biorhythms are being disrupted to perhaps tangible levels.

The Penguins, for example, will show up for Game 1 Saturday (OK, it's official) after seven days off.

Seven days.

The Penguins haven't had seven days off since the first week of January, when there was, thanks to the lockout, no hockey. You know, like now.

The difference between this week and the lockout is that during the lockout, I thought there eventually would be hockey.

With only modest reductions, Bylsma easily could have tucked another training camp into this sabbatical. Training camp lasted about nine days this year as I remember.

Personally, I can't remember covering anything that involved so much nothing in anticipation for something since the Super Bowl. By Friday, I'll be looking for a long snapper to interview.

As for the rest of you, this might be a good time to catch up on what's been happening while the Penguins were skating their way to the conference final so efficiently they somehow got here a week early.

The Pirates are one of the best teams in baseball again, and earlier than ever. This could mean only that they can get the collapse rolling before the All-Star Game this summer, but I think it means the first winning season around here since the Pleistocene.

Only four of Major League Baseball's 30 teams have more wins than the Pirates, and one of those will be here this weekend, the Cincinnati Reds, or as some of you know them, the Opponents For Parrot Soap Dispenser Night. One date in that three-game series figures to fall on the night or day of Game 1, but who can say?

Only the people who won't.

In other baseball news that might have escaped your notice, Pitt's baseball team finished its best season in school history, but failed to make the NCAA tournament thanks to a selection system that I'm sure makes perfect sense, much like the way the NCAA runs big-time college football, meaning via big-time administrative malfeasance.

Meanwhile, the never-ending NFL season is in mid-OTAs, organized team activities that Mike Tomlin calls "football in shorts." For some reason, the people closest to the epidemic of football injuries seem to think that more football is among the possible solutions. So Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers, playing football in shorts, will miss the next six months because he ripped his Achilles.

In May.

Thank you Maurice Jones-Drew, for showing us what May is for in this NFL. The Jaguars running back spent part of Sunday -- depending on who is talking -- either punching or fleeing the premises after not punching a security guard in the head at a Florida restaurant. In either case, this alleged incident reminds us that May is for relaxing and for the occasional posting of bail. Often the more impactful meaning of OTAs is Offseason Team Arrests.

The NFL offseason underwent something of a realignment while you were trying to watch hockey, as the league moved the draft to May 8 from the final weekend in April, which provides two more weeks in the draft lab for Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

Who couldn't use another 400 hours on the shutdown corner from Southwest Missouri State with the great ball skills and the non-stop motor?

Elsewhere, there's apparently an NBA team named the Grizzlies.

Elsewhere, Bill Peduto is the Mayor Apparent.

That's about it, but let me just check one more time for you to see if there's finally a schedule relative to the Penguins ...

Yes, it's Saturday.

Definitely.

Thank God this Penguins-Bruins series has so many story lines. No hockey games so far, but plenty of story lines.

genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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