The usual sold-out crowd of 17,132 cheered enthusiastically as Penguins players, coaches and executives filed onto the ice and red carpet prior to Friday night’s opening game at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The Stanley Cup, gleaming and sparkling under the bright white klieg lights of the arena roof, sat proudly on a table at centre ice. Lasers, lights and thrash-rock music permeated a videoboard tribute to the 2008-09 season and subsequent playoff run. As the tribute reached its climactic clip of Sidney Crosby receiving the Stanley Cup from the commissioner, the sound system suddenly crackled to a whisper and Crosby’s image faded to black.
In the crowd, silence turned to groans which turned to murmurs which turned to gasps which turned to booing. Then, like the despicable fake villain Emmanuel Goldstein, Red Wing forward Kris Draper’s sheep-like face illuminated the videoboard.
“Malady, measles and misfortune to you, on this cursed evening, city of Pittsburgh,” he began. “You may think that my team and I are in Stockholm … but that would be incorrect.” He sneered sinisterly. “Your worst nightmare has come true, for we, as I speak, have surrounded Mellon Arena. Yes, the Red Wings organization is holding you hostage.”
The camera zoomed out to show Draper flanked by Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, both with badly-drawn war paint on their faces, then cut to a scene of chaos: Twenty Red Wings had spaced themselves out in an equidistant fashion around the circumferential base of Mellon Arena’s steel retractable roof, each armed with what appeared to be a water gun, tied with hockey tape to a hockey stick. They were training their stick-guns on the throng of outdoor fans, more bewildered than terrified, who had gathered on the lawn to watch the night’s proceedings on a big screen. (The big screen had also been hijacked and was simulcasting Draper’s braying).
Back inside the arena, as stunned fans looked on, Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby skated forward and yelled up to the videoboard, “What do you want from us, Kris?”
“Oh look who comes forward now, sixteen weeks too late,” Draper mocked. “Mr. I’m-too-busy-celebrating-to-shake-hands. We decided the so-called Game 7 you won in June was fixed. It was predetermined by your boyfriend Gary Bettman. We’ve come now to retrieve what we’re entitled to – the Stanley Cup.”
“Give it up, Kris,” Crosby replied, “I already discussed this months ago; it’s in the past. Get over it already. I shook your coach’s hand, among others. As for the Cup – dream on.”
“Yeah, if we gave you the Cup, your daughter would probably lay down another deuce in it,” chortled Billy Guerin. “Ha ha ha. Hey everyone, look up at the screen. It’s Deuce Bigelow, ha ha ha. What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me … don’t hurt me, no more… ha ha ha.”
Draper gnashed his teeth and stared menacingly. “Very well…” The videoboard returned to the outside scene. Suddenly, several Red Wings opened fire from the roof. But just like last June, their shots were well wide of the target when it mattered most. Dan Cleary, unable to shake his missed chance in Game 6, actually hit a parrot which had escaped from the Pittsburgh Zoo, fifty feet above any human being. Unscathed, the parrot scoffed, aimed its tailfeathers and cranked out a fresh one, soiling Cleary’s sweater.
A seething Draper turned momentarily away from the camera, seething, but chuckling. Regaining his composure, he turned back and thundered, “This is war!!!” From inside the arena, all gathered heard a gurgling, then tapping, then marching, suddenly realizing that the Red Wings were storming from the roof towards ice level.
“Quick! To your formations,” Crosby ordered, gesticulating to his teammates to assume battle positions. “Remember what they taught us at West Point two years ago,” he said, referring to the Penguins’ unique leadership and team-building training camp experience in 2007.
With military precision, the Penguins stationed themselves on the perimeter of the rink, in foxholes behind the boards. The unflappable Billy Guerin huddled with linemates Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby near the Zamboni entrance.
Guerin: Doofy, where’s the pizza I left at your house last night?
Crosby: *sigh* Stop calling me Doofy. We ate it all.
Guerin: Doooooofy … are you lying to me? I’ll tell your mom.
Kunitz: Sid, I can totally see the pepperoni hanging out of your helmet.
Crosby: Fine, fine, fine.
Guerin removed fourteen slices that Crosby had hidden inside his helmet to be eaten later as a post-game meal. “Perfect. It’s Little Caesars,” Guerin began, taking an olive off a slice and popping it in his mouth. “This is what we’ll do. We lay these pizza slices in a little trail from the Zamboni entrance out to the blue line. The Wings will think it’s a sign from their owner, Mike Ilitch, the pizza czar. That will leave them out in open ice, trapped. Neutral zone-trapped.” Guerin shuddered momentarily, thinking back to his mid-nineties, offence-suppressed New Jersey days.
While Crosby and Kunitz busied themselves dissecting the pizza and laying down a trail, Guerin radioed to a trio of Pens stationed at the Penguins bench. “Gonch, Geno, Feds, can you hear me?”
Gonchar: Loud and clear, Billy. We’re just about set here for those ingluorious basterds.
Guerin: Nice Tarantino reference. Are you guys roughly at the blue line?
Gonchar: Yep. We have the warhead ready. Malkin and I will aim it at the end of your pizza trail. Fedotenko has the modified Kaleshnikov set to deliver immolation vodka shots.
Fedotenko: *smiling* I’ve been waiting to roast some Wings all summer. We’ll marinate them real good for you, Billy.
Guerin: You guys are awesome. How did you guys manage to smuggle all that into the country this summer?
Gonchar: Red Army surplus.
Malkin: Can I drink some of this Smirnoff now? It has big taste.
Fedotenko: NO GENO. For the eight millionth time, it’s for the incendiary bombs.
Up in the pressbox, Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot looked down below and gave double-thumbs up to both the Guerin and Gonchar groups. The trio in the pressbox were to distract the incoming Red Wings by firing doughnuts at Wings’ goalie Chris Osgood and Best of ABBA CDs adhered to IKEA furniture at Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. If all of these plans failed, the Penguins had one last weapon.
About the Author: Adrian Fung (@PenguinsMarch) contributes game reports, opinions, analysis and features, mostly about the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has covered the World Hockey Summit, Kraft Hockeyville, World Junior Championship exhibition games, CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, MasterCard Memorial Cup and NHL Rookie Tournament for Hockey Independent. twitter.com/PenguinsMarch