Who are the Pittsburgh Knights?

No, they’re not Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Reaves, Deryk Engellend, James Neal, and David Perron.

The Pittsburgh Knights are a professional eSports organization out of Pittsburgh, PA.  Their goal is to build a legacy to contribute to the “City of Champions” through their sponsorship by the Steelers.  They compete in Super Smash Bros., PUBG, Hearthstone, Fortnite, Paladins, and Gwent.   The Knights aim to be the paragons of eSports by winning and defending championship titles.

They ensure that their teams and competitors are well-supported in their competitive efforts.  This past December they put together an all-female PUBG team called the Dames of PUBG, promoting diversity and inclusion in eSports.  In general, eSports is the perfect platform to promote and enforce a gender balance in the sports world as men don’t have a natural, physical advantage over women as they do in most sports.

One of the owners, James O’Connor, stated that they “… see the Knights as being the fourth major global franchise in Pittsburgh…” which may be a slight shun to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Pittsburgh’s professional soccer team that plays in the USL.  Either way it’s a tall statement to live up to.  The Knights may be the talk among gamers in the greater Pittsburgh area, but they’re not a household team name.  They have a long way to go to have their name alongside the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates.  It will be interesting to see if they can accomplish this feat in the future.

Thanks for reading JMSO fans!

-A. Kam

https://www.knights.gg

Heartbreak

The Pittsburgh Pirates, I know even mentioning the name sends shivers up my spine. A storied franchise for quite some time in Pittsburgh has come and gone. One of the main contributors to this decline is Bob Nutting. I feel like Timmy Turners dad when he mentions, his neighbor Dinkelberg! That’s what it feels like to me when someone mentions Bob Nutting, pure loathing. According to sporttrac.com, the pirates are second to last in salary, though I thought they were dead last, but no Tampa Bay owns that spot.

The Pirates are dishing out a whopping $57,675,002.  We are seeing our NL central foes dishing out money like there is no tomorrow, for example the Cardinals are paying 147,876,666, the Cubs 206,850,714 and even the Reds 105,123,214. If the Pirates were to double their salary, they would still be under the league average. In the business of baseball, you have to spend money to win. I’m not trying to say you have to be dishing out 400 million each year but when your whole teams’ payroll is just what Bryce Harper, one player, makes in a year that seems to be a bit ridiculous. Francisco Cervelli is our highest paid player REALLY! A 32-year-old catcher who can’t manage to stay healthy for one season. Ok Buddy!

The revenue sharing the Pirates receive has been put into question as of late: where is the money going? Frank Coonelly deflected that question and said we are spending it within the rules. Unless Seven Springs is where the Pirates play, I doubt that what he says is true. If Bob Nutting truly wanted what’s best for the Pirates’ organization and their players, he would have sold them to Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle in 2010 when they offered to buy it. Instead Nutting down right refused their offer, simply because it wouldn’t be good for his wallet.

I know this ranting is probably getting annoying but I’m sure not the only Pirates fan who feels this way. I’m not even sure anymore why I root for this team, but I do, maybe it’s because Pittsburgh is in my blood, or maybe it’s become a sickness within me. One day I hope to be able to say with pride LETS GO BUCS!

Cody Potanko

Where Did You Go?

As the title states, where the hell has Antonio Brown gone? Well we know where he is, but mentally where the hell is he? With his latest antics it leaves us all questioning, what are you thinking? His latest tweets have us all scratching and shaking our heads. The one tweet I saw earlier this week he stated that he is “keeping analysts busy and creating jobs for future analysts” then he proceeds to say business is booming. Well lately sir business has been bankrupt, you are burning every single bridge imaginable from throwing shade at the owner to the QB who has defended you to his furthest extent. There comes a point and time where talent is masked by pure arrogance and being self-centered. This town has embraced you with open arms throughout the years. In reality, they shouldn’t have as in his 9 years here he has yet to win a DAMN THING. What happened to the team first mentality and winning super bowls? When did those become an afterthought? Maybe you should have stayed off of those pizza hut commercials and focused on winning more than just regular season games.

Now I am not saying this tumultuous melt down of the organization solely falls on him, nothing is solely an individual’s fault. You have a coach that harbors terrible mentalities and he hires friends instead of the right man for the job. Let’s be honest people, why the hell was Joey Porter even on the team after his famous bar brawl on the south side? Any other organization would have canned his ass and sent him packing. Maybe the “Rooney way” is dead and we need to develop a new philosophy. Maybe we should use the cap space we have and spend it on a decent corner back or better yet get a MLB that’s not Vince Williams. I know this has gotten off track, I just want you to know I’m not biased whatsoever. It’s not just AB’s fault, it’s a toxic locker room and a way to start healing is to separate the wheat from the chaff and send AB packing. His most recent tweets have him arguing with Emmanuel Sanders and Bruce Arians basically calling them dumb along with calling them divas. In my closing statement I’m not asking you to feel any way, I’m just asking you to look at the evidence in front of you and see that this is not a booming business.

Thanks, Cody Potanko

Jake Guentzel

Jake Guentzel has always been good, but this season he has taken his game to another level.  Already, he has surpassed his goals total for a season and we’re just at the halfway point.  He was named NHL’s 3rd star of the week for this past week.   Not to mention his contract extension that made us all smile and seemed to kick start an offensive streak in him.

Guentzel is all over the ice: defending well in his own zone, putting pucks in the net, and providing support to his linemates.  Last year it seemed that he was always getting hit, hit hard, by opponents.  This season he takes hits better and doesn’t leave himself as exposed when on the boards and in corners.

He’s embraced his spot on the team and in the city of Pittsburgh.  We’re loving what he’s giving and can’t wait to see what the remainder of the season has in store for him.

NHL Countdown: Meet My Teams & Players

Teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins

I grew up a Penguins fan but didn’t start to seriously follow them until I was around 13 years old.  Since then they have won 3 Stanley Cups, made many playoff runs, and drafted/traded for some big names, a few that are still in Pittsburgh.  No matter what happens, I will die a Penguins fan (unless they ever hire John Tortorella as a coach then I’m jumping ship and losing all respect for the organization).

Calgary Flames

I didn’t start following the Calgary Flames until Johnny Gaudreau joined them after his time at Boston College.  It also worked in their favor that they had Deryk Engelland at the time.  Since then, the organization has grown on me and I have liked the majority of their players, trades, and acquisitions.  My favorite that occurred over this past summer was trade that brought Noah Hanifin to Calgary.

Carolina Hurricanes

Jordan Staal being a Pittsburgh Penguins was ultimately what starting my being a fan of the Canes.  Through Jordan, I started to follow Eric and in turn the Hurricanes.  Jeff Skinner kept me a fan of the Hurricanes along with Jordan being traded to them for Sutter and the youngest Staal, Jared, playing for their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.  I have not been a fan of their trades recently as I don’t believe they are smart moves for the organization.  I would hate to be Sebastien Aho, playing on a team with high expectations for you that isn’t trying to put together a winning team around you.

Boston College Golden Eagles

While not an NHL team, the BC Eagles are why I’m a fan of many NHL players.  I started following BC when they played in Robert Morris University’s 1st annual Three Rivers Classic.  Johnny Gaudreau, Patrick Brown, and Kevin Hayes impressed me with their on-ice presence and skill and I’ve been following them and the Eagles ever since.

 

Players:

Olli Maatta:  He is the epitome of Finland’s development program, has overcome so much in his young career, and continues to improve his game.

Jordan Staal:  J. Staal was an easy Penguin to like.  He was always a dependable third-line center that produced and could kill a penalty.

Sergei Gonchar:  Gonchar was my very first “favorite player” and Penguin.  I don’t know why I initially started to like him but his well-rounded game play is why I continued to follow him even after he left the ‘Burgh.  He wasn’t gone for too long though and very few people were happier than I was to see him hired on as a defensive coach.

Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau:  Johnny Hockey loves the game and plays it well.  His work ethic is what made me notice him at the Three Rivers Classic.  He was all over the ice while still complementing his teammates and setting them up for opportunities.  Despite his accomplishments and phenomenal collegiate turned NHL career, he remains humble.

Marc Andre Fleury:  I have never, nor will ever, understand how any fan of hockey can hate on Fleury.  The guy is a magician on the ice, a trickster with his teammates, and the ultimate family man.  I will forever be thankful for all Fleury and his family have for the city of Pittsburgh both on and off the ice.

Beau Bennett:  Beau Bennett had such promise, but his injuries definitely had a significant impact on his career.  I liked his game play with the Penguins, now I admire how he has acclimated to his changed career path and his sense of humor/personality through it all.

Noah Hanifin:  Hanifin is a BC alum and an up-and-coming defenseman in the league.  I enjoyed watching him on the ice for BC and the Canes and I can’t wait to see what he will bring to Calgary this year.

Conor Sheary:  aka Lil’ Conor worked hard every second he was on the ice and rarely lost a battle in the corner boards despite being quite smaller than some of his opponents.  I’ll miss seeing #43 in a Penguins jersey.

Honorable Mentions: Jeff Skinner, Matt Cooke, Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons, Matt Niskanen as a Penguin, Jayson Megna, Cam Atkinson, Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, William Nylander, Kevin Hayes, Bobby Farnham, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Alex Tuch.

 

NHL Countdown: It’s More than a Game

It’s not always what happens on the ice that counts.  The league and individual teams plus the players and their families contribute a lot of time, money, and effort into charitable projects and foundations.  Especially over the summer, the aforementioned parties go above and beyond serving their hometown and franchise areas with the work that they do.

Here in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation partners up with many local charities and businesses to serve the surrounding area.  One of their biggest, ongoing efforts has been Project Power Play.  “Project Power Play takes advantage of the growing popularity of hockey in the tri-state area by affording young players access to newly constructed, outdoor, multi-use athletic facilities in partnership with Highmark.”  Basically, they build Dek Hockey rinks in parks and recreation areas in and around the Pittsburgh area.  Their latest Dek was built in Youngstown, Ohio earlier this month.  They also team up with the Mario Lemieux Foundation (MLF) to host a 6.6K run and 3.3K walk every October that starts and ends on Fifth Avenue (RIP Mac Miller) in front of PPG Paints Arena.  Additionally, the MLF works to provide X-Boxes, games, and other entertainment to those in/at Children’s hospitals in the area by sponsoring the building of Austin’s Playrooms named after Austin Lemieux.  Similar Foundations exist in accordance to all the other 30 NHL teams.

During the off-season there are different charity games that take place throughout the US and Canada that are hosted by NHL players themselves or different colleges/universities/organizations that invite NHL players to compete in.  Mentioned in a previous post (justmysportsopinions.com/2018/08/28/comm-ave-charity-classic-bc-cause-i-wouldnt-wanna-bu/) is the Comm Ave Charity Classic that takes place in Boston, Massachusetts every year hosted by either Boston College or Boston University.  They invite back alumni to draft two full rosters of mostly NHL players to support the Compassionate Care ALS, Pete Frates Home Health Initiative, and the Travis Roy Foundation.  Henrik Lundqvist and Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers host their own Summer Classic in Norway where they invite players from around the league and draft their own teams.  This event “aims to assist children and young people in challenging situations around the world.”

Like Zuccarello and Lundqvist, NHL players take it upon themselves to create their own foundations and give back to their communities.  In Pittsburgh, Kris Letang would probably be the guy that stands out when it comes to servicing the community as a family.  The family volunteers at various events around the city and Letang collaborates with Edgar Snyder and Playworks, making appearances at floor hockey and other field day type events.  Players around the league also participate in community events such a PRIDE Parades and the Calgary Flames ride in the Calgary Stampede parade every year.  The NHL as a whole also comes together in support of their Hockey Fights Cancer and Hockey is for Everyone initiatives.

The hockey community comes together in many ways to support one another.  The best example of this would be the follow up of the community after the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.  From the league and NHL teams to online apparel companies and fans around the world, an astronomical amount of support was sent their way.  The surviving members were invited to the NHL Awards this past June where there was a tribute to those who were lost including Head Coach Darcy Haugan who was awarded the inaugural Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.  The GoFundMe created to support the surviving members and the families of those who didn’t make it, reached over $15 million.  Contributing to this total was various online apparel companies such as Everything Hockey that created and sold decals, and other companies t-shirts and hoodies, where 100% of the profits were donated to the Humboldt Broncos.  Similar actions and support was sent to Vegas and Stoneman Douglas High School after their respective tragedies.

Overall, the ice hockey community is arguably one of the strongest and most supportive in the world.  We come together to support one another in amazing ways.  Get involved today in your local foundations/charities/events by checking out your team’s or favorite players’ foundations.

 

For more information on the above foundations and charities, check out the links below.

https://www.mariolemieux.org/austins-playrooms/about-austins-playroom/

https://pittsburghpenguinsfoundation.org/program/project-power-play/

http://summerclassic2018.com/en

https://humboldtstrong.info/

The Olli one that Maattas!

My absolute favorite active player in the NHL is Olli Maatta, if you didn’t already know.  Today, August 22, 2018, just happens to be his 24th birthday.  I’d say he definitely accomplished and overcame a lot in his life thus far.  A defenseman from Finland, Maatta has his haters, but they just don’t appreciate the progress of his career.

  • He played in multiple World Junior Championships and many other international competitions both for Finland’s U18 and U20 teams.
  • He was the youngest player to ever play for Finland’s World Junior team
  • While in the OHL, he and his team made it to the Memorial Cup championship game not once, but twice.
  • He finished in fifth place for Calder Cup voting after his rookie season with the Penguins.
  • He won a bronze medal with Team Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
  • He was selected to Finland’s team for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
  • Olli Maatta has played a part in the Penguins winning back to back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

Mind you, he achieved those two Stanley Cups after overcoming a shoulder injury that required two separate surgeries about six months apart.  In the midst of that, he was diagnosed with low-grade thyroid cancer which kept him off the ice for only two weeks after surgery.

The kid has only gotten better over time.  His skating, which everyone complained about it being an issue his first few seasons, has improved greatly and is no longer a hindrance to his game.  He has been relied on to step up with alllllllll of the injuries that have plagued the Penguins’ blue line over the last few years.  Maatta is steady and secure in his game.  He’s not one to get in his own head and let one bad shift affect the rest of the game.

It’s been exceptional, tremendous, enlightening, and just really, really cool to watch him grow his game and develop as a player over the last few years.  He’s the one that really introduced to me to the greatness of the developmental program that Finland has created and maintained.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him and hope he stays in Pittsburgh for a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

Sources that helped out with some of the stats:

https://www.nhl.com/player/olli-maatta-8476874

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olli_M%C3%A4%C3%A4tt%C3%A4#Junior

Cullen & Kids

Pittsburgh and Penguins fans could not be happier to have Matt Cullen, aka “Dad”, back for one more season.  However, Cullen and his sons might be even happier to be back in the ‘Burgh and with the Penguins organization.  Joey, Wyatt, and Brooks Cullen love Pittsburgh and their dad’s Penguins teammates.  Over the summer, since he signed back with the Penguins, the Penguins media crew met up with the Cullen’s and did a series on them.  In one picture, his son could be seen wearing a Penguins shirt but not with his dad’s name on the back.  Instead, the Cullen kids wear Pens gear with their favorite players on the back such as Evgeni Malkin and of course Sidney Crosby.

Crosby is a bit of a legend in the Cullen household.  First off, the oldest Cullen boy, Brooks, has a huge Fathead wall display featuring Crosby in his bedroom.  Also, part of the media series covered knee hockey tournaments in the Cullen’s basement with special guests.  Crosby was named the “best goalie” and Hornqvist took home the title of “best player” while Phil Kessel wasn’t as good as his sister, Amanda, and Carl Hagelin was too “slow”.

It was cool to see into their lives outside of hockey (although their lives outside of hockey still contains a lot of hockey).  Matt Cullen will always be the Dad of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh will always be a second home for this Dad.

 

Sources:

https://twitter.com/penguins?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/cullen-enjoying-dad-duty-during-offseason/c-299704722

Skinner vs. Kunitz

Jeff Skinner or Chris Kunitz?  It seems to be the biggest trade rumor when it comes to the Penguins and their fans this off-season.  With Skinner, you get a strong left winger whereas with Kunitz you get a city-loved veteran.   Skinner would be new blood in Pittsburgh with new energy and a ready-to-go mindset.  He finished the past season with 49 points in 82 games but could add to his defensive game as he was      -27 on the season.  Although, seeing as he was with the Hurricanes, it was probably a team-wide issue.  At this point in his career, I see Kunitz being a third/fourth-liner if he comes back to Pittsburgh.  He knows the game and the city, if not Sullivan’s system.  He brings a lot of grit to his game while still producing on offense.  Now with Sheary and Hunwick on their way to Buffalo, it looks like we may just see Kunitz back in the ‘Burgh or invite Skinner for a long-term visit.