Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: I'm torn. Over the past several years I've been adamantly opposed to the relentless booing of Jaromir Jagr (at Mellon Arena). I choose instead to be appreciative of his years of spectacular play and (for most of the time) great attitude during his tenure with the Penguins. However, he recently admitted the booing makes it difficult for him to play in Pittsburgh, and I'm in favor of anything that could give the Pens a competitive advantage in the playoffs. Is there any evidence to suggest that his play is affected by the crowd?
Brian Strazisar, Venetia
MOLINARI: The harsh treatment Jagr receives from a segment of the Mellon Arena crowd seemed to affect his play quite a bit in the first few years after he was traded to Washington in 2001, and still does, to some degree. As you noted, Jagr acknowledged as much while speaking with reporters after the New York Rangers completed their first-round victory against New Jersey.
Purchasing a ticket gives fans the right to treat players as they wish, as long as they don't pose a physical threat to them or violate standards of civility and decency to the extent that other ticket-buyers are offended by their actions. If some believe that booing Jagr is a good use of their time and energy, they are entitled to do so. Just as people who don't endorse that kind of behavior are entitled to regard those who jeer Jagr as petty and provincial.
One hopes, though, that the fans who once adored Jagr and then turned on him didn't do so because of the countless misrepresentations of Jagr's "dying alive" quote after a game in Boston Nov. 28, 2000. Those words -- which were spoken to a Post-Gazette reporter, and no one else -- have been twisted and taken out of the context in which they were delivered by so many people for so long that the primary reason Jagr was expressing such intense frustration (he had just been held without a point for the fourth consecutive game) was forgotten long ago.
Q: At the conclusion of a playoff series, having physically gone at it for as many as seven games, the teams meet at center ice to shake hands. Has there ever been a time when altercations have broken out during that ceremony?
Tom Howells, McConnellsburg, Pa.
MOLINARI: While there is a suspicion that a handshake line has deteriorated into a brawl in the minor leagues at some point, neither the moderator of this forum nor a handful of colleagues with many years of covering the NHL to their credit could recall such an incident at this level.
Of course, that might not have been the case if some of the most ferocious competitors in NHL history -- fabled tough guy John Ferguson and goaltender Billy Smith come immediately to mind -- didn't participate in that post-series ritual, figuring that it was hypocritical to make nice with guys they had battled so hard to defeat.
Those players had a valid point, because it's hard to believe that at least some players (especially the ones who lost) can have their feelings change from hatred to respect in a matter of minutes. (Which also makes New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur's refusal to shake the hand of Rangers agitator Sean Avery last week completely understandable.) Still, the handshake line is among hockey's most elegant traditions, and one that ideally would remain part of the game forever.
First Published April 25, 2008 12:00 am