Ron Cook: Image of Ray Lewis with trophy is not the worst
February 5, 2013 5:15 AM
Gregory Shamus/Associated Press
Scott HartnellMore hated in Pittsburgh than Ray Lewis?
By Ron Cook Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You will get over it. It has been only about 36 hours. You will get past that horrible image of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis holding up the Lombardi Trophy. You have to believe that or you will drive yourself crazy.
There could be worse things in sports, you know?
Lewis isn't the most hated villain to pass through town.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could win another Super Bowl, which would give them four together and match the amazing feat of Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll. Hardly anyone here likes Brady. He's a pretty boy. You can't touch him on the field. He's one of the greatest who ever lived. He goes home to Gisele every night. Even fewer people like Belichick. What do they call him? Belicheat? Steelers fans are convinced he robbed them and their team in two AFC championships because of Spygate.
Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers could hoist the Stanley Cup. Alexander Ovechkin could do it for the Washington Capitals. Jaromir Jagr for the Dallas Stars.
Hockey has produced more villains in Pittsburgh than the two other major sports combined. Baseball gave us Pete Rose and Barry Bonds. Football gave us George Atkinson, Jack Tatum and the whole criminal element thing with the Oakland Raiders. But there are no villains like hockey villains.
That goes back to the beginning of the Penguins franchise and St. Louis Blues defenseman Barclay Plager. If you are of a certain age, you probably still can remember the derisive chants of "Bar-clay! Bar-clay!" pouring down from the Civic Arena seats. Penguins fans quickly came to dislike Bobby Clarke because he was such a good player, a dirty player, and his Flyers teams routinely carved up the Penguins. Wayne Gretzky became Public Enemy No. 1 because he had the audacity to be better than Mario Lemieux. He also was a lot like Brady, protected by the referees, untouchable on the ice.
No one had a gripe with Adam Graves of the New York Rangers until he slashed Lemieux's left hand and fractured it in the 1992 playoffs. Lemieux came back to lead the Penguins to the Cup, but the team's fans didn't forget or forgive Graves. How dare he?
Dale Hunter and Dino Ciccarelli of the Capitals similarly were bold with Lemieux and the other Penguins in their playoff battles in the early 1990s. I remember the players moaning about Hunter's tactics. All but one, that is. "I kind of like the way he plays," Ulf Samuelsson said. Say what you want about Ulf being one of the game's dirtiest players, he was no hypocrite.
Ovechkin has done a nice job of following the Hunter tradition. He didn't hesitate Sunday to send Sidney Crosby flying. He took a stupid penalty for roughing Chris Kunitz late in the game, a 6-3 Penguins win. For years, he seemed consumed about knocking around Evgeni Malkin.
Ovechkin surely will be booed when the Capitals play Thursday night at Consol Energy Center, but the old hatred won't be there. He once was considered Crosby's rival as best player in the world, but he's no longer in that conversation. He has been passed by Malkin, as well. Just call Ovechkin the Not-So-Great 8.
Penguins fans won't get to see Jagr this season unless the Penguins face the Dallas Stars in the Cup final. He should be remembered as a Penguins hero for his work on the Cup teams in 1991 and 1992, but he was moody and immature and begged to be traded. That didn't play well in Pittsburgh. Jagr has been booed ever since. The feelings against him intensified in the summer of 2011 when he jilted the Penguins, who, for some crazy reason, were willing to bring back, to sign with the hated Flyers, of all teams.
It's no wonder Pittsburgh took the Penguins' first-round playoff loss to the Flyers a year ago so hard. Jagr didn't just play a big part in beating its team. That rat Hartnell did, too.
Hartnell acknowledged he's more hated in our city than in any other.
"I don't know why," he said, grinning.
There are a number of reasons. Hartnell is a really good player. He constantly agitates on the ice. He eggs on Penguins fans by reacting to their boos. That hair ...
You would love Hartnell if he played in Pittsburgh.
Hartnell, who has a broken bone in his left foot, is expected to miss the game Feb. 20 when the Flyers play the Penguins at Consol Energy Center. But he will be ready for the playoffs. The Flyers don't look like much of a contender, but things can change quickly in the NHL. You had better hope they don't win the Cup somehow. You think it was bad seeing Lewis with the Lombardi? You will know real pain if Hartnell ends up kissing the Cup.