Our Cup Runneth Is Over

Our Cup runneth is over.

Pittsburgh came up agonizingly short of the Stanley Cup, but that’s the only loss the team and the city experienced during one of the zaniest rides we have ever seen in this town.

They rejuvenated the fan base long since dormant. They proved the wisdom of saving the team from bankruptcy and the building of a new arena which should open around 2010. Most of all, they brought a new kind of fan to the local sports scene. The young fan.

Unlike Steeler games, which tend to be populated by those who have had tickets for many years and people of means, we saw young and new fans showing up to Mellon Arena every night during the run. We saw fans of all demographic groups and often more women than men. That’s because these are sports heroes that the masses can relate to … and will take the time to relate to the masses. The best sales pitch for Pens hockey and the Pens themselves: young men who exhibit manners, common courtesy and maturity beyond their years. It’s this youth explosion – both fan and player – that bodes well for the future of this sport in this city.

We also saw what happens when this city embraces a team on its way towards a title. I will argue with anybody that when our teams are in the play-offs, there is no more supportive city than Pittsburgh. The fan base will buy tickets, travel with the team, write songs and hang banners ( except for members of city council who chose to put politics ahead of public support and banned a Pens banner downtown ).

Best of all, in this loss will come the seeds of future victory. Remember, the heart of this hockey team – Crosby, Malkin, Stahl and Fleury – are kids. The team captain isn’t even old enough to drink, but he will be when the Pens sip champagne from the cup in the very near future.

CBC hockey analyst Don Cherry told me last week that there are no more dynasties in hockey because the way the game is set up financially. He might well be right, but the closest the game has to a modern-day dynasty will be based here in Pittsburgh where we have a combination of youth, enthusiasm, time and a new arena. It’s a powerful combination and one that bodes well for the future of hockey here in this city.

 

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