Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sir Sidney Looks to Join the Knights of the Roundtable

Crosby is back at practice (not just shooting pucks), and will be traveling with the team down to Florida. My guess is that he watched the game last night, and it was too much for him to bear.

Look the eff out, Eastern Conference. Could we see him in New Jersey next Tuesday? Who knows. We'd better start every enforcer we have if he plays against the Isles.

Holy balls, folks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Game of the Year

When you don't play your rival for 3 months, it's easy to forget how much you hate them. That's how I felt going into last week's Pens-Flyers matchup. It took about 0.2 seconds for me to remember the depth of my loathing for the Philadelphia Flyers. In my hate scale, the Flyers rank somewhere between ex-girlfriends and Glenn Beck.

It's a scary thing when a former drug addicted alcoholic high-school grad is one of the most powerful men in America. He'd probably say hockey is a tool of the Communists used to put Marxist thought into the minds of the impressionable masses.

Anyway, I digress.

The Flyers will likely be without defenseman Chris Pronger. But Pronger is overrated anyways, so who gives a crap. Side note: I once had a Flyers fan try to argue that Chris Pronger was as good a defenseman as Nicklas Lidstrom. No joke.

Rumors are abound that Crosby is close to making a return to practice. I'm not sure we even need him to be a contender. Though it definitely wouldn't hurt.

There was one thing that I wanted to address. The Marc-Andre Fleury for MVP talk.

I should preface this by saying that I absolutely love Fleury. There's no one else that I'd rather have manning the net for my beloved Pens. His puck handling and rebound control have improved by leaps and bounds this year. And anyone who says that he's not a clutch goalie must not watch Pens games. There is no doubt that he's the team MVP this year (which he was voted as by the team).

But should he win the Hart? Probably not.

First off, the last goalie to win the Hart was Jose Theodore in 01-02. Theodore lead the league in save percentage that year, and was fourth in goals against average. Fleury doesn't rank in the top 5 in either of those categories (8th and 11th, respectively). In the entire history of the award, it has only been won by a goaltender 7 times, and only three times since 1962. So in essence, in order to win the Hart as a goaltender, you have to be SIGNIFICANTLY better than any other netminder in the league. This year, one could easily make a legitimate case for Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist (who has nearly four times as many shutouts as Fleury) for MVP as well.

Like I've said, I'm not discounting Fleury's importance to this team. Without him, we're probably struggling for a playoff spot. But if you take guys like Luongo and Lundqvist off their teams, they're in the same position as well. To me, this season has firmly entrenched Fleury as an elite NHL goaltender. But hopes of a Hart are probably unrealistic.

But I must say, if by some infinitesimal chance, Fleury does win; I will gladly eat my words.

He should at least get save of the year for this. Pretty much took whatever was left of Mike Green's manhood (riding a Vespa and having a flower tattoo eliminates 85% of his man cards) on this stop. Awesome stuff. Gotta love Green's reaction. It looks like he got shot.

Let's go Pens.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Making a Run for it.

Yeah, I don't know how the Pens are four points out either.

The Pens deserved this win in regulation, no doubt. But two points are two points, and now the Pens are one win and one Carolina loss away from a playoff spot. Outside of pure guts and determination, I don't have an explanation for how the Penguins keep fighting...and winning. Games like this really make you think that we can make a run at the Cup even without Crosby/Malkin.

The Flyers came out for the first five minutes and dictated the play, possessing the puck for long periods in the Pens end. Then every Flyer but Bobrovsky went home. Every loose puck, the Pens were there. The score doesn't do the game justice. It wasn't even close.

Some notes:

-Dustin Jeffrey was injured in the second. Looked eerily like Malkin's torn ACL, but no word on exactly how bad it is yet. Nobody's overly optimistic.

-What a rebound game for Kris Letang. He looked more like his old self.

-There is no way that Ben Lovejoy gets bumped from the D rotation once Brooks Orpik returns. No way.

-Mike Comrie is back in the lineup tonight. Nobody cares.

-Sidney Crosby is out destroying beverage containers.

Jesus, that's a backhander that did that. The scene in Scanners where the dude's head blew up was less impressive than that shot.

Underrated movie.

Holy hell, the Pirates start playing next week. Here's a great article on ESPN about Buccos skipper Clint Hurdle.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Collapse Averted

If you stopped watching last night's Pens-Wings game with a few minutes left in the second period, you probably would have thought the Pens would end up winning 234098-0. The Pens were dominating offensive zone time, while making Mike Babcock and other Red Wings AARP members look like third graders.

Then came the collapse. As a Pens fan, it felt like a Vietnam flashback. For the first ten minutes of the third period, I thought we were playing the Bruins. Our defense ceased to exist. Brent Johnson took a nap for a while. Mike Modano reminded us that he was still playing hockey. All of a sudden, we were thanking our lucky stars that we were walking away with a point.

And then came James Neal and his Crest Whitestrips.

By the way, this has to be my favorite picture of all-time. Pretty sure that's what I looked like after my first beer.

Anywho, Neal roofs one on Ronald MacDonald and everyone goes home happy.

Some notes:

1. Forget about Letang without Crosby and Malkin. Letang isn't anywhere close to the same without Brooks Orpik

In watching Letang over the past three weeks, this is plainly apparent. Orpik's stability and calmness with the puck allows Letang the freedom to do as he pleases with the puck. Tanger is one of the most offensively gifted defensemen in the league, but he seems burdened since Orpik has been out of the lineup. Errant passes, defensive lapses and other issues have grown exponentially without Brooks. Does this team need Crosby back? You bet. But they may need Orpik even more right now.

2. Keep Staal and Kunitz together for the foreseeable future.

Remember, in the not so distant past, in the time after Kunitz was acquired from Anaheim, he and Staal were linemates. Kunitz had a hat trick in his first game with Staal. That chemistry never left.

Frankly, Staal looked lost on the top line with Neal and Kovalev. He looked like he had trouble handling the increased ice time and dealing with the top defensive pairing of the opposition. He needed a change.

Cue the return of Chris Kunitz. Here are Kunitz and Staal's stats since Bylsma put them on the same line (March 8th-6 games)

Kunitz: 4 goals, 4 assists, +5
Staal: 3 goals, 5 assists, +7

That is chemistry that you just don't mess with.

3. Bring on Philly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

James Harrison Lays Down the Law

James Harrison isn't much of a talker. Definitely not a go-to guy if you're looking for some sort of gossipy, juicy comment. So on the few occasions that Harrison does speak, all of us listen.

Harrison released a lengthy comment on the NFL lockout on his facebook page today. Rather than comparing the players situation to being a slave (Here's looking at you, Rashard and AP), Harrison detailed a thorough and reasonable outline of his thoughts on the matter.

Read the comments in their entirety here.

If only we had more James Harrison's on both sides of the table.

Is Matt Cooke Worth the Aggravation?

Let me preface this by saying something. I like Matt Cooke. Off the ice, he's a good family man, good to the fans, and overall a kind soul. I defended the Savard and Tyutin hits, saying that they were both instances of Cooke not trying to be a goon, but trying to make some sort of a play (the Savard hit, perhaps not as much).

But this is getting old, and I'm not sure there's any legitimate defense for this type of play.

Cooke leads with his left side, stick solely in his right hand, and lifts his elbow straight up into the face of Ryan McDonagh. Cooke isn't making a hockey play here; it's a cheapshot, pure and simple. Much as I dislike that team, I'm impressed at the Rangers expressing some self-control during the remainder of that game, not reverting to Cooke-like tactics.

Not to mention, Cooke's penalty, along with an unfortunate high stick from Matt Niskanen, in all probability cost the Penguins two extremely valuable points.

So the question becomes, do Matt Cooke's redeeming qualities on the ice outweigh his dirty play? Perhaps yesterday was the tipping point. We're a city full of Cooke supporters, but I don't hear a lot of people defending his hit on McDonagh. It was wreckless at best; dangerous at worst. Cooke should count his lucky stars that McDonagh is okay, otherwise I'm not sure what kind of suspension he would be looking at. He could still be looking at not seeing the ice until the playoffs (or perhaps, worse). As a Pens fan, it's difficult to watch. We know the talent that Cooke has. Everyone around the league does. Players like Matt Cooke win championships.

But what good are Cooke's talents when he's suspended, at home with his wife and kids? This has been an incredibly trying and difficult season for the Penguins, the "A" on Cooke's jersey should be a reminder of how rough it's been. He should know that this team needs him, and they need him to play by the book. It's tough enough to win games without the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Orpik. We shouldn't have to deal with these kinds of issues from Matt Cooke. Definitely not in the heat of a March playoff run.

The hit was bad. The timing was worse.

Given his wild inconsistencies, it's difficult to predict exactly what punishment Colin Campbell will dole out. Given that Cooke is a high-profile troublemaker, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him for a long while, perhaps the rest of the season. And if that were to be the case, it's justified.

Regardless of what penalty Cooke receives, the relationship between he and the Penguins brass may be in trouble.

UPDATE: Per Nick Kypreos, Cooke has been suspended for 10 games plus the first round of the Playoffs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

College Basketball Christmas

This is probably the one day of the year in which those who are in school/gainfully employed wish they were jobless in front of the TV. There is no more gluttonous event in all of sports than the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. From noon to midnight, we're treated to twelve hours of (usually) dramatic basketball. Brackets can be busted within the first three of those hours (I sincerely hope I didn't just curse myself). Hell, even the Prez has the time to fill out a bracket.

And this year, college basketball is doubly important to us Pittsburghers, as Penn State joins the perennial contenders, Pitt, in the dance for the first time in 10 years. State will square off against Temple at 2PM today, while Pitt joins the fracas against UNC-Ashville at 3PM.

The biggest question facing the Pitt squad is whether or not they can finally make it over the hump and make it to their first Final Four since 1941. There's no doubting the abilities of head coach Jamie Dixon. Dixon has solidified Pitt as one of the powerhouse basketball schools in the country. However, Pitt has always seemed to hit road blocks in the tourney. As a #1 seed, this season would appear to be Pitt's easiest road to the finals, who wouldn't face a seed higher than #4 until the Elite Eight. However, their road may go through last year's runner-up, Butler University. While Butler has lost much of the firepower from the squad that narrowly lost to Duke; namely star forward Gordon Hayward, their tournament experience may pose a threat. I mean seriously, who could ever forget this:

So will it be another early exit for Pitt? Or are they Houston bound? I'll be updating this post with Penn State and Pitt results as the day progresses

The fun starts now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Locked Out: 10 Things Steeler Fans can do in 2011

The thought of spending autumn Sundays doing anything but watching Steeler football would bring even the most hardened fan to tears. As events have progressed, this outcome is looking not only plausible, but probable. The two sides are so far apart that even the normally reserved Adrian Peterson is making outlandish claims.

(Side note: While I don't agree with Peterson's off-the-mark analogy, his assessment of who is to blame is balls on.)

So what do we do if the closest thing we get to watching the Steelers this year is watching Hines Ward awkwardly hide the erection that Kim Johnson gives him on Dancing with the Stars?

So in order to avoid a mass suicide in the city, here are 10 things to do OTHER than watch the Steelers on Sundays.

1. Drink Heavily on Saturday night, as to avoid waking up until Sunday evening.

This is probably the best option. If you don't wake up until 6:00 PM, you won't feel like your missing much of anything!

2. Watch the Penguins. A lot.

Here's the idea, for October-January Saturday night Penguin games, drink heavily, DVR the game. That way, when you wake up at 6 on Sunday, you have something to watch. Pure genius.

3. Go to church.

I heard that some people do this on Sundays. It may be worth checking out.

4. Brunch.

Brunch is awesome. You eat a smorgasbord of deliciousness from 10AM-2PM, then proceed to spend the rest of the night in the bathroom. Quite the Sunday, my friends.

5. Take your girlfriend/wife out.

If you do this on more than one Sunday during (what would have been) the season, you'll be in her good graces forever. Go to the symphony. They're unreal, and Sunday matinees are cheaper. Couple that with a decent lunch or dinner and you probably get a handjob out of the deal.

6. Exercise (This does not include playing Wii)

If you keep going to brunch every Sunday, you're going to need it. Fat ass.

7. Watch replays of every Steelers game from last season every Sunday at 1.

This is the most cathartic option, and you've probably forgotten what happened anyways.

8. Watch this video over and over.

9. Internet porn.

Face it, if you're single, you're doing this anyways.

10. Start a blog.

Any egotistical, self-serving, narcissistic jerk-off (See: Kurt Savage) can do this. Vent your frustrations out for 17 people a day to read. Afterwards, you can go an act like a know-it-all on OTHER people blogs. Especially the blog of Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. What a crybaby.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rumors of My Demise have been Greatly Exaggerated

"Lovely to see you again, my friend,
Walk along with me to the next bend.
Dark cloud of fear is blowing away,
Now that you're hear, you're going to stay
Cause it's lovely to see you again"
-Lovely to See You- Moody Blues

After the initial erection from receiving that text from 32-623 that Crosby was back on the ice had subsided, and after hearing from Sid himself, it's important to put his return to the ice in context.

1. If we see him at all, it's still going to be a while.

Let's face it, if we were in Crosby's situation: concussed, out of work and bored, Tim Horton's donuts would look pretty good (they do anyways). He's nowhere close to being in game shape. This is just the first of many trial runs. But admittedly, it feels good just to finally see him make that first step.

That being said, we shouldn't just assume that we'll see Crosby for the end of the regular season/playoffs. Like he stated, he could feel fine right now, but wake up tomorrow morning and be back to square one. This is going to be a gradual and often frustrating process for Sid and for Pens fans, so it would behoove us to have a bit of patience.

2. aoimwefhiopahwfjkl

If you didn't do a Pensblog-worthy home key smash when you heard this news, you aren't a true fan.

3. There are more important things than a 2010-11 playoff run.

I have faith that Crosby and the Penguins are being careful with this issue. Nobody wants to sacrifice Crosby's long-term health just for a Cup run. He's 23, and has his best hockey ahead of him. There's simply no use in jeopardizing that.

And beyond even that, he's going to have a life after hockey. He shouldn't have to spend that life tormented by the repercussions of this injury. We've already seen this in the NFL, and Crosby shouldn't have to fight the same demons as many former players have had to.

4. Number four is just to emphasize how awesome it is to see him lace up skates again. That deserves its own bulletpoint.

5. To all those people who said he was retiring, just shut up for a while. Do us all a favor.

Today was a good day, and the Crosby saga will continue, but hopefully we're now looking towards a happier ending.

It's Good To See You Again

Sidney Crosby took the ice for about 15 minutes this morning. I wondered why my phone started going schizo.


Please excuse me while I go scrape the poop out of my pants.

More on this when I'm not at work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pens Win, Bylsma Signs 3 year Extension; Humble Blogger Claims Responsibility

No more than 24 hours after my blog post explaining why Dan Bylsma should be Coach of the Year, the Penguins brass rewarded him with a three year contract extension. Clearly Shero and Super Mario read my blog. You're welcome.

Oh, and Mario, if you see this, I would love to join you in your luxury box for a game. I'm sure I could find time between my day job and touching myself to come hang out.

The best news to come out of this is that Bylsma can now afford a lot more of these bitchin fedoras.

Bylsma's Pens overcame an awful first period to beat the Sabres 3-1. James Neal and Zbynek Michalek went berserk, each with a goal and an assist. It was great to see this team play exciting hockey again, and Neal was at the forefront, playing huge roles on all three Penguin goals. You get the feeling that last night gave Neal a TON of confidence going forward.

Michalek must have blocked about 8000 shots. I didn't check the box score because I know I'm right.

Horrifying stuff in last night's Bruins-Habs game as Zdeno Chara rode Max Pacioretty into the stachion near the benches. Pacioretty was knocked unconscious, and this morning's reports say that he has a severe concussion and a possible fracture in his neck. Chara is due to have a phone meeting in regards to any possible discipline around noon.

We all wish Pacioretty the best in a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dan Bylsma should win Coach of the Millenium

If you disagree, Mr. Bylsma would like to have a word with you.

When Dan Bylsma took over the tenth-place Penguins in 2009 and lead them to a Stanley Cup Championship, fans coined the phrase "Byls-magic" to describe the teams tremendous turnaround.

That was completely retarded. There's nothing particularly "magical" about winning a Stanley Cup when you have players the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Fleury along with supporting cast members like Orpik, Gonchar, Staal, Kunitz, et al. Superstars that play in a system that maximizes their talent usually end up winning a few of these things.

The fact that Bylsma has this Penguin team, who have played long stretches this season without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, Mike Comrie, Arron Asham, Mark Letestu, Eric Godard, etc; two points back of the Flyers for first place in the division and first in the East: THAT'S magical.

One can point to the 1302477093 straight games that the Penguins won in November-December as the main reason for the Penguins being in the position they are now, and it's a pretty decent argument. However, the fact that the Penguins have a winning record without Crosby and Malkin (and were it not for a couple of overtime heartbreaks, that record would be even better) proves that Bylsma's system, as a whole, works. He's got his players believing that they can win no matter who is missing from the lineup. Once Crosby and Malkin went down, this team could have packed up and called it a season, and no one would have blamed them. Hell, a lot of people expected it.

Yet here we are. 260 plus man games lost later (and Crosby's should count double). Not only are we still in the picture, we're fielding a team that others don't want to meet in a seven game series.

Lead by Bylsma, this bunch of fill-ins, cast-offs and nobodies (key cogs like Mark Letestu and Chris Connor weren't even drafted, and 22 defensemen were taken ahead of Norris candidate Kris Letang) have recaptured the hearts of Penguin fans by exemplifying what Pittsburghers pride themselves on: fighting through adversity with guts and determination, only to come out stronger on the other side. Is this Penguin team as fun to watch as they were in November? No. But are they more relatable? No doubt. Who didn't feel an immense satisfaction when Dustin Jeffrey, who has been back and forth from Wilkes-Barre so often this year that Ray Shero has his name on speed dial, smoked the Bruins in overtime? Who didn't throw a Jersey Shore fist-pump when Tyler Kennedy buried the Avalanche with an OT goal of his own?

This team can do damage in the playoffs for one reason: they want it more than other teams. In a season unlike any in recent memory, Coach B has instilled an insatiable hunger in the belly of this team.

And I certainly wouldn't want to be on the menu.

Friday, March 4, 2011


The only reason I'll be able to fall asleep tonight is because I know that they have to go home to that miserable pisshole that is Newark.

The NHL's War Within

Prior to Islanders "enforcer" Trevor Gillies' meeting with the NHL's top disciplinarian (and former Penguin) Colin Campbell, it is necessary to re-evaluate the way that head injuries are addressed.

Since David Steckel threw the "shoulder heard 'round the world" into the side of Sidney Crosby's head, the issue of head shots and concussions have been thrust back into the forefront. Recent events involving Gillies, along with the recent results of the brain analysis on the late Bob Probert have only added fuel to the fire.

The NHL has a problem. Much like the one the faced this past year. And they can learn from each other. To call the way the NFL handled the issue of unnecessary head shots a miserable failure would be an insult to miserable failure. The early season rule changes greatly confused players, officials, coaches and eventually, the rule-makers themselves (who, in many cases, reduced the fines they had previously set).

The punishment that will be handed down to Gillies today will serve as a crossroads for the NHL on this issue. If they come down too lenient (less than six games), they will be seen as continuing to ignore the elephant in the room. If they make an example of Gillies, by say, suspending him for the remainder of the season, they will be chastised for arbitrarily changing the nature of the game itself. Hockey has always been a brutal sport, and has often embraced players like Gillies, the tough guy that always has the back of his teammates.

So where can the NHL draw the line? Repeat offenders? Intent to injure?

The fact is this: no matter what the NHL does today, it cannot save it from itself. Hockey will never be a concussion-free sport. The unfortunate circumstances that fell Sidney Crosby WILL happen again. Whether it be from a hired goon like Trevor Gillies or a gritty (but clean), blue-collar player like Dave Steckel. It simply cannot be stopped. We can do something about deliberate head shots like Gillies, but those are only a small fraction of the problem. Most of the concussions in the NHL come from hits like Steckel's; incidental contact at high speeds and in blind spots.

This war being waged within the circles of the NHL can have no winners. The true issue is not violence in the NHL, it's the violence of the NHL. If anything, the NHL needs to have more of a vested interest in technology that can minimize concussions (just ask the scientists who have been working on new NFL helmets), rather than worrying about whether or not to render judgement on every play where somebody is injured, which is exactly what the NFL did this past season.

The Gillies' incidents shouldn't be seen as an opportunity to make an example, it should be seen as an opportunity to have a closer look at preventative measures that can be taken in the future. Then, and only then, can the NHL truly address this issue.

Just ask Sidney Crosby about it.

Update: Gillies given a 10 game suspension. Seems appropriate to me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pens Lose, Trevor Gillies' Mustache Strikes Again

If Trevor Gillies played on a team that didn't completely suck, he would be by far and away the most hated man in the NHL. Of course, Gillies wouldn't play on a team that didn't suck, because he contributes nothing but goonism. At least Matt Cooke has talent. Here's a video of Gillies' latest gem:

The hit itself is nearly a carbon copy of the Gillies hit that felled Eric Tangradi, only sans the fight and subsequent taunting.

The NHL should render its decision today. Gillies, although 32 years old, has only appeared in 15 NHL games. This leaves the possibility that if Colin Campbell comes down hard on Gillies, he may actually be suspended for more NHL games than he's appeared in. Ridiculous.

The Pens dropped another overtime game last night, falling to the Maple Leafs 3-2. Tough loss considering that Pens dominated the majority of the game. Big game from Matt Niskanen though, he's looking very comfortable within Bylsma's system. The return of Paul Martin and Tyler Kennedy provided a much needed boost, particularly Martin, who at times looked like the best player on the ice.

Apparently, Crosby is still battling symptoms from his January concussion. At this point, it's becoming more and more difficult to envision a 2011 return for Sid. The Penguins clearly know which side their bread is buttered on, and are unwilling to risk the long-term health of their biggest star for a Stanley Cup run this year. By all accounts, the Penguins have approached this situation with genuine concern and thought for Crosby's well-being. That should come as a shock to absolutely no one.

The Pens will finish out this 5 game road trip with big games against New Jersey and Boston. Boston is of course, leading the Northeast division and the Devils are playing like their balls are on fire (they've had a grand total of 2 regulation losses since January 9).

We should thank all major and minor deities if the Penguins can even pull 2 points out of the next two games.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Injurious Bastards

The long list of Penguins injury updates:

-Tonight marks the return of Tyler Kennedy and Paul Martin. One of them will probably be re-injured within a week.

- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went to the Lady GaGa concert on Saturday. Twitter goes apeshit with people talking about how Lady GaGa uses a buttload of strobe lights and Crosby wouldn't go if he still had concussion-like symptoms. Totally miss an opportunity to make fun of the fact that Crosby and Malkin were at a Lady GaGa show.

- Chris Kunitz's moustache is set to make its debut sometime this weekend.

- Eric Tangradi is somewhere getting taunted by Trevor Gilles.

- Mike Comrie sucks.

- Arron Asham got really into the 60s, and no one ever saw him again.

- Brent Johnson is still day-to-day with lower body injuries that he sustained fighting with a drunken black bear.

- Brooks Orpik is hanging out at home and watching the YouTube video of his ridiculous SCF shift back in 2008.

To get you pumped up for April 8.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Five Most Important People EVER (And by ever, I mean in Pittsburgh Sports history)

Let's face it, the Internet loves countdowns. Pittsburgh loves sports. This list was just bound to happen.

So lets eschew the superfluous adjectives and get right to it.

5. Barney Dreyfuss

Don't be ashamed if you had to Wikipedia Barney Dreyfuss. In case you didn't know, there are quite a few reasons why Dreyfuss appears on this list.

1. He brokered the deal that sent Honus Wagner, Rube Waddell and others from Louisville to Pittsburgh, permanently altering the course of baseball in Pittsburgh. It was quite a badass move. The Louisville team was about to fall victim to league contraction, so Dreyfuss purchased the Pirates, then proceeded to trade four relative no-names to Louisville for Wagner, etc., all while knowing full well that the Louisville team was about to fall into oblivion. Awesome.

2. He pretty much came up with the idea for the World Series.

3. He oversaw the construction of Forbes Field, which forever changed the layout of the city, and in particular Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh. Forbes was also the first three-tiered steel stadium in the US. Prior to the first game at Forbes Field, Dreyfuss stood at the gate, shaking hands with all who entered.

4. The hat. Seriously.

4. Chuck Noll

Frankly, it was harder to put Noll on this list than I thought it would be. Not that it's Noll's fault, it's just because Pittsburgh is that awesome.

But seriously, remember how good the Steelers were before Noll came along? You don't? Oh yeah, that's because they SUCKED. The Steelers of the 1930s-1960s were pretty much how the Pirates are now: Jokes. The first decision Emporer Chaz made as head coach was to draft Joe Greene, one of the only people in NFL history who has 6 Super Bowl Rings (all with the Steelers).

Perhaps his most telling statistic (other than his four Super Bowl Titles): From 1969 to 1974, Noll drafted NINE Hall of Famers. That's not a typo. Noll almost AVERAGED drafting two Hall of Famers a year over that span. That's completely insane. Okay, fine, maybe it wasn't too difficult to put him here.

3. Roberto Clemente

Definitely the most heartbreaking figure in Pittsburgh sports history. And who knows exactly what baseball in Pittsburgh would be like now had Clemente not left us at such a young age.

Much is made about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, and deservedly so. However, I'd argue that Clemente was more important in regards to the ethnic makeup of the sport. Clemente was not the first Latin player in the league (that distinction belongs to Esteban Bellán), but he was the game's greatest Latino ambassador. Clemente's success, along with his unmatched off-the-field work, changed the landscape of the game. Baseball has become the Latin American pastime, in great part due to Clemente's impact on his native Puerto Rico and the rest of the region.

I haven't even mentioned the fact that Clemente is regarded as one of the greatest all-around players in the history of baseball, but yeah, the stats and championships speak for themselves.

2. The Rooney Family

I know, I know. I can't believe I put them here either. The family that is often pegged as the greatest owners in NFL history. And without the Steelers and the Rooney family, Pittsburgh would look much different. The Steelers have the most Super Bowl Championships, and are often regarded as the greatest franchise in the NFL.

....But they weren't always. The Rooneys are often put up on a pedestal by Pittsburgh fans, however, the first 35 plus years of the franchise's existence were a complete disaster. What changed the fortune of the franchise was the hiring of the fourth most influential person in Pittsburgh sports history, Chuck Noll. It's very difficult to gauge where the Rooney's influence ends and Noll's begins.

And unfortunately, in recent years, the image of the Rooney's has taken a hit. The Ben Roethlisberger saga, among other team issues, has somewhat tarnished the way that people (mostly those outside of Pittsburgh) look at the Rooney family.

All that being said, they are undoubtedly the patriarchal family of Pittsburgh, and likely will be for the decades to come.

1. Mario Lemieux

In sports history, it is a rarity for one person to single-handedly save a franchise.

Mario Lemieux has done it.

Three times.

In 1983, the Penguins were flirting with bankruptcy for the second time in the past 10 years. Many observers thought the end was near for the Penguins. Cue Le Magnifique. Super Mario was there for the taking (since the Pens tanked the end of the 1983 season), and Pittsburgh had a new favorite son. It didn't take long for Lemieux to endear himself the Pittsburgh faithful, scoring on his first NHL shot, and more importantly to the team, putting fans in the seats.

Lemieux had perhaps the most turbulent playing career that any major sports star has ever had. He battled severe back issues (so severe he couldn't put his own skates on) and a bout of Hodgkin's disease, which could have cost him his life. No matter the injury issues, many experts put Lemieux in the same category as Wayne Gretzky, some even saying Lemieux was the better of the two. Super Mario lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

That was the first time Lemieux saved the team.

Late in Mario's career, he was faced with one of the strangest circumstances that a professional player has ever fallen into. By the end of the 1990s, the Penguins were almost $100 million in the red. They declared bankruptcy (again) in 1998, after asking Lemieux and other players to defer their salaries (which they had been doing for quite some time). By the time the Penguins filed for bankruptcy, Mario was the team's largest creditor. Rather than demand his money, Lemieux turned the $30 million he was owed into equity and bought a controlling stake in the organization, becoming the majority owner, President and CEO of the Penguins.

And by the way, Lemieux ended up repaying everyone whom the previous owners had not.

Then came the third and (hopefully) final time in which Lemieux propped up the Pens. After several years of struggles and declining attendance, along with a failed sale of the team, Lemieux managed to fight off the pressures to move the team elsewhere, bartering for the agreement that inevitably gave us the Consol Energy Center. At the time, Lemieux was widely criticized for visiting with Kansas City, though it has since come out that Lemieux's reason for the visit was to put pressure on Pennsylvania to authorize the new arena.

For all of these reasons, it's hard to argue that Mario Lemieux ISN'T the most influential and important sports figure that Pittsburgh has ever had. When you analyze the totality of what Lemieux has done, it's nearly mind-boggling.

We love you, 66.