Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: Can we see Gary Roberts getting an extension after this year? I loved his hard-hitting style, which is amazing for a guy his age.
-- Kevin, Burgettstown
MOLINARI: Roberts is 41 - whether he turns 42 before the 2007-08 season ends will depend on how long the Penguins last in the playoffs, assuming they qualify - and remains a remarkable physical specimen. That he's even in the league, let alone able to play such a relentlessly physical style, at that age is testimony to his passion for conditioning and good nutrition (part of the reason management likes having him around is the idea of having Roberts' commitment rub off on younger players), but time is going to catch up to him at some point, and there's no guarantee it won't happen this winter.
Consequently, it figures to be a few months, and possibly more, before general manager Ray Shero decides whether it would be prudent to begin negotiating an extension on the one-year deal Roberts signed in June. The Penguins, like most teams, don't have anyone in their organization who plays quite the way Roberts does, so if they believe he could hold up for at least one more season, it wouldn't be surprising to see them try to work out a new deal with him.
Q: I have noticed that the crowd in Raleigh is typically 25 to 50 percent Penguins fans (closer to 25 percent since the Hurricanes won the Cup). My question is, how typical is this for the Penguins, and do most other cities have the same trend of hosting a large percentage of "visiting fans"?
-- Bill, Clayton, N.C.
MOLINARI: Penguins fans turn up in decent numbers at almost every game the team plays in the United States, and there are a few possible explanations for that.
One is that a generation of fans grew up watching the Penguins' championships teams of the early 1990s, enjoyed the entertaining style they played and eventually adopted them as a favorite team, even if their primary loyalties were with another club.
Another is that the Penguins' current collection of gifted young players, headlined by Sidney Crosby, is following a formula not unlike that Mario Lemieux and his colleagues employed 15 years ago and have connected with fans across North America. That makes the Penguins a must-see attraction anytime they come to town.
But the most obvious reason there are so many Penguins fans in so many places is that Western Pennsylvania has hemorrhaged population for well over three decades. When those people change their addresses, however, they don't necessarily change their sporting loyalties.
It's worth noting, by the way, that the Penguins are hardly the only team that can count on getting a lot of support in most road cities. That also is true of Detroit, another city that has had a lot of fans relocate for economic reasons, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, among others, with the most of Original Six clubs enjoying particularly widespread support.
First Published September 25, 2007 12:00 am