A statue for Mario?

Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari

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Q: Are there any plans to put a statue of Mario Lemieux outside the new arena? I'm not sure how he would feel about it, but after all he's done for hockey in Pittsburgh, it's about time.

Jennie, Oakland

MOLINARI: While it hasn't been officially confirmed that there will be a Lemieux statue inside, outside or near the Consol Energy Center, good luck finding anyone who doesn't expect that to be the case. In fact, a Post-Gazette story published 18 months ago said team officials already were looking for sites where a statue could be placed. (The subject of thaestatue wasn't specified in that story -- it was identified only as "a well-known player" -- but the assumption at the time was that it wouldn't be, say, Vincent Tremblay or Peter Ahola, and that hasn't changed.)

There's ample precedent for having such things at the city's major-league venues, and there's no question Lemieux is worthy of such an honor. The only concern might be that if the sculptor chosen for the job tries to depict Lemieux for every time he saved the franchise, his or her work might end up looking like those terra cotta armies unearthed in China a few decades ago.

Q: I am fine with teams being relocated into divisions due to their geographical locations. But what I have had a problem with is changing the names of divisions and conferences to compass points. Why can't we go back to the names they took away? One of the things that interested me in hockey was finding out what those names meant. Who those men were and what they did for the league. Its a travesty to take those away for compass points. At least they haven't taken the names off of the post-season trophies ??? yet.

Ross Ferraro, Riverview, Fla.

MOLINARI: Anyone searching for a convincing argument in favor of the NHL employing its current division and conference names (Atlantic, Eastern, etc.) rather than its predecessors (Patrick, Wales, etc.) should look elsewhere.

Not only do the current designations make little sense for some of the teams placed in them (since when should Dallas be part of any group called "Pacific," and how does Minnesota qualify as part of the "Northwest?") but there's no good reason for the NHL to turn its back on its history, the legacies of some of the people who laid the foundation for league to become what it is today.

Commissioner Gary Bettman worked in the NBA before joining the NHL, and it doesn't seem like a reach to suggest that he didn't object to (and quite possibly suggested) the changes, given that his former league uses those same geography-oriented names.

With all due respect to compass points, a game with a tradition like that found in the NHL would be better-served if its divisions and conferences were named after people like Conn Smythe and Lester Patrick and, for that matter, the Prince of Wales. A history as rich as that of the NHL should be embraced, not ignored.


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