The Pittsburgh Penguins young team matured enough to knock off the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Cup Final. Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain to ever hoist Lord Stanley's hardware. And for SB Nation's Penguins blog Pensburgh and Frank Della Femina, it couldn't have been better. He was blogging about the team he simply adores and getting a chance to blog about the Finals two years in a row.
The NHL's new season kicked off this week and I thought, who better to talk to this week than the blogger for the defending champs. So without further ado, here is my discussion with Frank Della Femina.
Tyler Bleszinski: Congrats on your team winning the Cup last season. Are the Penguins a better team or a worse team heading into 2009-2010?
Frank Della Femina: They're more or less the same to be completely honest, minus the likes of Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. One of the best things about winning a championship is that it's easy to shop the team as a good place to play. Players looking to compete, but more specifically win, will turn to Pittsburgh and consider signing a discounted deal if it means increasing their chances of winning. The Penguins saw that with a discounted return from winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who took a paycut right around $400,000 to compete again. Bill Guerin returned as well, and the Pens also signed a veteran defenseman in Jay McKee who was willing to come on board for (a measley) $800K.
Bleszinski: What kind of atmosphere have you tried to create over at Pensburgh and what can people expect from the site?
FDF: I like to keep it fun for everyone. If you wanna curse endlessly or pick on/bash users then this isn't the site for you. We try to uphold that same standard in any site we visit as well. You can go after me if you'd like, but don't harass the casual reader. There are die-hard fans, casual fans and, let's be honest, bandwagoners. I enjoy seeing the readers interact with one another but also like interacting with fans from other blogs around the network. In cross-blog banter, the one factor that I try to stress is that we're all hockey fans - some just have better taste. Those people are called Penguins fans.
Bleszinski: What's your favorite part about being a blogger about the Penguins?
FDF: The Penguins are just an exciting team to watch again. I went to games when I was younger and saw Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis tear things up. Then there were some darks day that also included a potential move out of town. Thankfully the current roster really reflects the overall theme from the '90s again - that winning isn't impossible.
Bleszinski: How'd you come to be a Penguins fan as I think you live in New Jersey, don't you?
FDF: Yes I do. What's funny is I became a Penguins fan when I lived in New York. The story goes like this - I was seven or eight years old. Walked into a video store (VHS - hoorah) with my dad and saw a cardboard Enter to Win box with Mario Lemieux on it. He was holding the Cup above his head and I just thought, "I wanna be that guy." That was honestly my first exposure to hockey. Funny in hindsight. From there I had access to Madison Square Garden and Brendan Byrne Arena (original home of the Devils). I hit up a few games and was hooked immediately. I started having a hockey overload with those small, 4x6 subscriptions to Hockey Digest and yes, even listened to Rangers and Devils games on the radio if it meant they were playing the Penguins. I guess you can say I started as a front-runner but have stuck with them since.
Bleszinski: What was your favorite moment as a Penguins fan?
FDF: Since I wasn't exactly a fan when the Penguins won the two Cups back in 91/92, I'd have to say this past season's Stanley Cup win. Before that I'd say watching Mario Lemieux play (and score) in his last home game before his first retirement. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjLoeqiw2Uc
Bleszinski: Who is your all-time favorite Penguin?
FDF: I have to take Mario Lemieux. No question. When I starting getting into hockey he was the reason. I have a shoebox filled with his hockey cards and framed 8x10s hanging up around the bar. His old school Pittsburgh jersey was a Christmas gift when I was 9 or 10 and I specifically asked for it in a bigger size so I could wear it when I got older. It still fits today.
Bleszinski: Who do you think will wind up with more Cups at the end of their career, Mario or Crosby?
FDF: At this point I have to say Crosby because, well, I definitely don't want him stopping at one. Maybe for posterity's sake I'll say they tie at two a piece, but I'd be willing to see Crosby surpass that.
Bleszinski: What other sports teams do you follow? Are you a Pittsburgh guy across the board?
FDF: Nope, I'm all over the place, although two of them make sense geographically. I've been a Jets fan since birth when my father bought me a Freeman McNeil jersey. Also root for the Yankees, which makes sense for anyone in NY/NJ/CT. But then I go halfway across the country for basketball, rooting for the Denver Nuggets. They interested me when I was younger - and by that I mean I had a bunch of basketball cards and just decided to like the Nuggets - but admittedly there was no way of watching them outside of the very rare TV game. Eventually the more recent TV deals and NBA League Pass made it possible to catch more games. The best part is, since the Nuggets are on Mountain Time I can watch the Pens game that roughly ends around 9:30/10 EST and then switch right over the Nuggets game that started only a half hour or so beforehand. Works out well.
Bleszinski: You have some journalism experience. Is it different putting on the blogging hat rather than a reporting hat?
FDF: Not really. Sometimes I catch something I'm typing on the blog and I think to myself, "Change that - it's too newspapery." More often than not I use the blog as a stream-of-thought approach that hopefully comes off more like a conversation than, say, a straight-up, meat n' potatoes sort of journalism. At the end of the day I just really enjoy writing, so really I'm happy to have a place like Pensburgh.
Bleszinski: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise some of your readers.
FDF: I've never played ice hockey, although I've always played roller hockey. Just one of the conditions that comes with growing up in NY/NJ I guess. There are more paved driveways and school yards than there are sheets of ice. I can ice skate pretty well though, so I'd be willing to take on the challenge one day.
Bleszinski: Thanks so much for your time today and best of luck this year except when playing the Devils.
FDF: Psh. The Penguins don't need luck when playing the Devils. They just have to show up.