Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exclusive: Secret merger talks between Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins

In the wake of last night’s heartbreaking overtime loss in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, which again leaves the once dominant Philadelphia Flyers outside looking in at the ultimate prize in hockey, I have learned that serious people from both the Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been having secret discussions about a merger.

I can report that the team would be called the Pennsylvania Flying Penguins. It would split its home schedule between the two cities and combine rosters, with the surplus being traded or exiled to the American Hockey League. But by retaining the best of both teams, it’s believed they’ll finally be able to get back into hockey power.

It’s unclear if the merger initiative has the backing or even the knowledge of team leadership. Flyers captain Mike Richards called reports of merger talks absolute rubbish, while Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was equally dismissive, also cracking that the Flyers already have a de facto coalition with the Blackhawks anyways, and if the Penguins had been in the finals they wouldn’t have rolled-over to Chicago in six games.

Despite their denials, I spoke with Flyers president Bobby Clarke last night and I took detailed notes on our conversation. He told me there is a lot of interest in a merger from the Penguins, and there have been discussions at a high level between team saints, whom he described as Mario Lemiux and Kevin Stevens, with Bill Barber leading talks for the Flyers.

Apparently the Penguins were really pushing this, but the Flyers side has told them they’ll need to renounce socialism and embrace the market economy as pre-requisites to any merger agreement. The Penguins would also need to accept Mike Richards as their captain, despite Sidney Crosby consistently scoring higher approval and popularity ratings.

Personally, I think the Flyers should just suck it up. They didn’t lose that badly, they have a good, solid core of players that now have extensive playoff experience. A few roster additions, get rid of a little deadweight, train hard in the off season and they’ll compete for the big prize again. Just work hard, and they’ll be fine. No need to look for quick fixes.

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