The old "hockey is a business" adage is going to be heard a lot this week. It's the mantra Olaf Kolzig is repeating to local media in DC as he faces the Washington Capitals for the first time since their bitter split.
If only it were. The Penguins have been very careful not to speak out of turn on Hossa's signing with the Red Wings, especially leading up to this game. But Max Talbot is nothing if not honest, and he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Hossa's departure still stings him:
"Oh, yeah," Talbot said. "There's [anger]. You can't forget about something like that because everybody in the organization and [the players], we expected him to come back. We thought he was comfortable here, and he was really good with [Sidney Crosby as his center], and stuff.
"The way he left was kind of, [a blow] to the heart, but you have to live with that.... You have to respect his decision, but, for us, it's not the best thing thatcould have happened."
It's interesting to note two other reactions in the Gazette piece, from Sidney Crosby and Brooks Orpik. Both were very complimentary of Hossa, with Crosby saying that his former linemate "earned the right to make that decision" and sign with Detroit. Sid's been consistent with this, even back in August saying there are no hard feelings.
So why is Talbot angry? Perhaps there's a little class distinction here. Orpik played the free-agent game last summer, and Crosby of all people knows about the sacrifices a player does or does not make as a free agent. Max Talbot's in adifferent tax bracket; perhaps that's made him more susceptible to being angry and bitter, clinging to his Hossa.
You can't expect the reaction to Hossa leaving to mirror that of Ryan Malone's rather quaint bon voyage. Especially since Hossa signed with Detroit, which was a slap in the face made even more insulting when he claimed they were the team that gave him a better chance to win and put Pavel Datsyuk over Crosby by comparison. Penguins fans were enraged when he left, and deservedly so.
But those are fans, and these are players. And the bottom line is that the guy was a mercenary. He came to Pittsburgh as the most highly sought unrestricted free agent in the off-season, and it's the reason he left Pittsburgh, too.
There's a natural camaraderie that blossoms between teammates during a long playoff run; but that chemistry doesn't always translate into an emotion more palpable than the draw of the open market. Disappointment? Maybe. But anger's a bit much.