Former Penguin takes star turn on Twitter
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Paul Bissonnette admits he is not much of a speller. And he jokes that he's "a nobody" as a hockey player.
Yet the former Penguins minor leaguer -- he appeared in 15 games with them -- has grown into something of an Internet star.
And not because of the 5 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time he averages as an enforcer for the Phoenix Coyotes, who take on the Penguins tonight at Consol Energy Center, although Bissonnette did stage an entertaining, protracted fight Saturday with Trevor Gillies of the New York Islandrers.
Bissonnette recently eclipsed 28,000 followers on Twitter -- twitter.com/@biznasty2point0 -- and certainly many others read his often funny, occasionally controversial, posts.
- Matchup: Penguins vs. Phoenix Coyotes, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV/Radio Internet: : FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9), penguins.nhl.com.
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Jason LaBarbera for Coyotes.
- Penguins: Have lost two in row following 12-game winning streak. ... Are 5-2-1 vs. West, including 4-3 shootout win at Phoenix. ... Sidney Crosby among NHL leaders with 21.2 shooting percentage.
- Coyotes: Are 7-2-1 in past 10 road games. ... Are 2-4-5 vs. East. ... F Ray Whitney has 14 goals, 47 points in 42 career games vs. Penguins.
- Hidden stat: Penguins' Max Talbot is one goal shy of 50 for his career.
He Tweeted this after the Coyotes arrived in town following their 4-3 shootout victory against the Islanders:
"Staying @ same hotel as the NY Jets in Pittsburgh. Since Troy [Polamalu] is out, I will stop the offence. Crank calls to Mark Sanchez room all night."
And earlier, from New York:
"Going into [NHL commissioner] gary bettman's office. Ganna ask why there aren't lazy boyz in the middle of the bench for us plugs. Should be manditory."
His Tweets are popular enough that over the weekend, he announced a Twitter account just started by Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy (@tk1448) as a favor to his former teammate. Both know that's a good way to spread the word.
Of course, Bissonnette also had to poke some fun at a photo Kennedy posted of himself wearing a lighted Christmas sweater Saturday during a team holiday party at goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's house.
Bissonnette was one of the last players off the ice Sunday when Phoenix practiced at Consol Energy Center but, as usual, he was full of energy.
"My mind is just always going, so I kind of unleash it [on Twitter]," he said. "People usually embrace it."
They usually embrace him, too.
Mention of his name brought smiles to several of the Penguins who knew him from his short stint here, from training camps or from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate. Bissonnette, 25, was a fourth-round pick by the Penguins in the 2003 draft and was picked up by the Coyotes off of waivers before the 2009-10 season.
"When he was here, he was a funny guy and he seemed to feel at home right away," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "I'm sure he's bringing a lot of that same thing to Phoenix."
The Penguins' Deryk Engelland, who has graduated to a full-time spot in the NHL this season as the Penguins' sixth defenseman and budding enforcer, recalls that when he and Bissonnette were in Wilkes-Barre, they would squabble over who got to fight.
"We were good buddies," Engelland said. "It's tough not to get along with him. If he's on your team, he's there for you."
Engelland differs greatly from Bissonnette in one way: Engelland eschews the Internet and is not involved in social media. But he figures it's a great outlet for Bissonnette.
"He's definitely got the personality for it," Engelland said. "I can't think of the stuff that he comes up with. It's funny when you get to read it. We're definitely different ends of the totem pole."
While there's no guarantee Bissonnette will play tonight -- he has appeared in just 14 of Phoenix's 31 games -- and Engelland occasionally sits in favor of Ben Lovejoy they won't be averse to a rumble if both play.
"It just depends on the game, the situation," Engelland said. "If the situation's right, I'm sure neither of us are going to shy away."
Bissonnette has fond feelings for Pittsburgh -- thus the pro-Steelers Tweet -- and keeps in touch with several Penguins, including defensemen Alex Goligoski, Brooks Orpik and Lovejoy and wingers Eric Godard and Kennedy.
That's usually by text message. Twitter serves a different purpose.
"I just do that for the fans, let him see my personality and see what it's like to be an NHL hockey player," Bissonnette said.
He got in some hot water last summer for a controversial Tweet commenting on the long-term contract Ilya Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey. He suspended his Twitter account temporarily, but it's back and stronger than ever.
Now he only pushes things to a point.
"I'm a nobody as far as the hockey standpoint, so I can get away with it, fly under the radar," Bissonnette said. "If a guy like Sid [Crosby] said some of the stuff I say, it would be all over 'SportsCenter,' 'Pardon the Interruption,' all that stuff."
First Published December 20, 2010 12:00 am