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May 10, 2008 - John Mehno
It's a hockey town, especially when the hockey team is a step away from playing for the league championship.
Certainly there are bandwagon jumpers and just as surely, they're going to be resented by long-term fans. It comes with the territory. Everybody loves a winner and the Penguins are currently 10-1 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They sold out every game this season and the feelings are so strong that a mostly young crowd has been gathering on the lawn at Mellon Arena to watch the games on a big screen.
Bob Smizik recently suggested in a Post-Gazette column that the Penguins are now threatening the Steelers' level of popularity which is, of course, silly. They're nowhere near that and probably won't ever be. Hockey just isn't as accessible as football is for most people.
The Penguins are having a great ride and have a legitimate chance to win it all. That means the bandwagon will continue to load as the playoffs continue. Good for them. They're not only a successful team, but they're one that has legitimate stars who are drawing cards. When you lose a lot -- as the Penguins did in the late 1990s -- you get prime draft picks who turn into franchise players. It was the same scenario that played out in the early 1980s and brought the Penguins Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Enjoy the winning while it lasts, because it never seems to last long enough.