(Apologies for today's post being a little late. We're still feeling a little under the weather.)
Many, including us on occasion, have questioned the NHL's decision to stage games in Europe when it still has much to accomplish within the United States in terms of growth.
But when you get e-mails like these, you realize why the league's presence on the other side of the Atlantic is necessary:
"It's amazing that they crossed halfway across the world for a couple of games. It was a lifetime experience and I really enjoyed being able to watch my Pens live."
-Sebastien Vallecalle, EN European Bureau Chief
We've had several conversations through e-mail with Sebastien over the course of the past two seasons. He's a native of Paris and he's a huge hockey fan obviously. He became a fan of the Penguins in 2000 when Mario Lemieux made his comeback. Prior to this past weekend, the only Penguins game Sebastien has seen in person was a game in Montreal in 2002. He's had to rely on the Internet for news on his favorite team. He has stayed awake well past a normal bed time in order to listen to Penguins games online on numerous occasions. (Perhaps wondering who this "Loretta" is and why she needs to look or why Pittsburghers are scratching their backs with wood-cutting equipment.)
When the team came to his neck of the woods (so to speak), Sebastien made the decision to catch each game at considerable expense. We imagine several other Europeans did as well. As we saw with the reaction for Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson in Stockholm, it meant quite a bit for Swedish hockey fans to see two of their national heroes in person. For others, they wanted to see what this Sidney Crosby guy was all about as well as Evgeni Malkin and Dany Heatley.
We're sure the league's decision to increase its presence in Europe is strictly motivated in money. Promote the sport over there and you sell jerseys, online video packages, etc. And considering how much stronger Europe's economy is than the United States, you could argue selling the sport in Stockholm or Prague makes more sense than doing the same in Nashville or Phoenix.
But for folks like Sebastien, it's important for other reasons as well.
Sebastien was kind enough to send us several photos from his weekend:
-The Globe Arena:
-A Mario Lemieux jersey:
-A Saku Koivu Canadiens jersey:
-A Jarkko Ruutu jersey:
-A Marc-Andre Fleury jersey:
-A "Sweden" Senators jersey:
(Regardless of international boundaries or customs, that has to be a jersey foul of some sort.)
-A family of Penguins fans:
-Sidney Crosby warming up Saturday:
-Hal Gill, Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan:
-Pascal Dupuis and Satan:
-Kris Letang and Brooks Oprik during Saturday's game:
-The celebration following Kennedy's winning goal:
-Kennedy being interviewed by Dan Potash we suspect:
-Fleury warming up Sunday:
Note: To borrow a phrase from Roger Clemens, we "misrembered" a few facts in detailing Sebastien's passion for the Penguins. We had earlier indicated he became a Penguins fan in the early 1990s. Apologies for the error.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-What's the deal with the Penguins' power play?
-Sidney Crosby will be appearing on TSN's "Off The Record" today at 6 p.m. (Kudos to EN reader Leanne Trof with the heads up.)
-For what it's worth, the Penguins had the best penalty killing numbers in the preseason.
-Former Penguins forward Chris Thorburn apparently left an imprint on the heart of one Pittsburgh fan.
-The AHL Penguins begin their season tonight.
-David Brown will get the start in net for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is a hockey town... er... towns.
-Defenseman Wade Redden is already proving his worth to the Rangers.
-Forward Josh Bailey, the Islanders' 2008 first-round pick, will start the season with New York.
-Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent is dealing with a shoulder injury.
-We know it's the preseason and all, but the Flyers actually lost to their AHL affiliate, the Phantoms. Former Penguins goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin was in net for the Flyers.
-The Bruins waived forwards Peter Schaefer, Jeremy Reich and Nate Thompson.
-The Senators are using forward Jarkko Ruutu much more than the Penguins ever did. Fire Michel Therrien.
-Does Ottawa have another goaltending controversy?
-The Canadiens aren't taking any chances with their injured players.
-Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisebois is one of the last players still using a wooden stick.
-Could goaltender Vesa Toskala be the next great Maple Leafs?
-Florida put defenseman Cory Murphy on waivers. Murphy might be a guy the Penguins could take a look at. While he's very small, (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) and not very physical, he's a puck-moving defenseman. He could be a stop-gap until Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are healthy.
-The Hurricanes turned down a request by the Lightning to move the time of Saturday's season opener in Tampa Bay. The Lighting wanted to avoid a conflict with the Rays' playoff game with the Red Sox.
-Members of the Lightning are already complaining about their trip to Europe.
-Thrashers goaltender and former Penguin Johan Hedberg is dealing with a toe injury.
-Detroit forward Aaron Downey was put on waivers. Forward Darren Helm, Ville Leino and Jonathan Ericsson were demoted to Grand Rapids of the AHL.
-The Blackhawks demoted defensemen Cam Barker, Aaron Johnson and goaltender Antti Niemi to Rockford of the AHL.
-The Blue Jackets put forward Craig MacDonald, Derek MacKenzie and defenseman Aaron Rome on waivers.
-The Oilers unveiled their new "old" third jersey. Absolute brilliance.
-This should be Edmonton's only jersey.
-Edmonton demoted forward Gilbert Brule to Springfield of the AHL.
-Vancouver waived forwards Matt Pettinger and Jason Krog.
-The Avalanche demoted forwards T.J. Hensick, Brian Willsie and Per Ledin to Lake Erie of the AHL.
-Newly acquired Canucks forward Michel Ouellet will start the season in Manitoba of the AHL.
-Defenseman Scott Niedermayer will serve as the Ducks' captain this season. Forward Ryan Getzlaf and defenseman Chris Pronger, Anaheim's captain last season, will serve as alternate captains.
-The Ducks reclaimed forward Joakim Lindstrom off waivers from Chicago. The Blackhawks claimed him off waivers from Anaheim last week.
-The Kings signed restricted free agent forward Patrick O'Sullivan to a three-year deal.
-Los Angeles named forward Dustin Brown its next captain.
-Former Penguins prospect Matt Moulson will start the season on the King's top line with Brown and Anze Kopitar. Fire Craig Patrick.
-The Sharks put defenseman Kyle McLaren on waivers (If you're wondering, the answer for the Penguins should be "no." They already have one Hal Gill.)
-Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov will start the season on injured reserve due to a hip injury.
-The Stars are thinking Stanley Cup.
-Could the Stars be facing some salary cap problems?