Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
One of the best moments of this year’s NHL draft was when George McPhee stepped up to the podium to make the first of his draft picks and was roundly booed by Pittsburgh Penguin fans. McPhee responded to the crowd with some sass, “Thank you, Pittsburgh. We’re touched. Thank you.”
Despite the heckling, McPhee somehow found the composure to draft Swedish forward Filip Forsberg with the eleventh overall pick.
Forsberg, sitting alongside his father, mother, younger brother, and two agents, was overjoyed upon hearing McPhee, exchanging hugs with his family and friends. Meanwhile, as he walked down to greet the Caps caravan and get his first ever NHL jersey, the boos — now somewhat softer — rained down from the crowd.
Forsberg did not understand why.
At the final day of Development Camp on Saturday, I asked him about the boos.
“That was a bit surprising,” a smiling Forsberg said of the hissing yinzers. “I heard a lot about the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry and stuff like that [at home in Sweden], but [the booing] caught me off guard.”
Filip will eventually learn there’s more to the Pens-Caps rivalry than just Crochkin. Much more.
There’s been goalies fighting players, painful quadruple-overtime goals, and cheap shots. Lots and lots of cheap shots. And since 1991, the Caps and Penguins have met eight times in the playoffs. Despite trailing in seven of those eight series, the Pens have gone on to beat Washington in all but one: the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
But hey, we won the Winter Classic. So that’s something. Right?
Forsberg seemed excited about the possibility of playing in those kinds of physical and emotionally demanding games. When I asked him if he had heard about boisterous NHL fans, he nodded.
“[Playing in the NHL] is something that I really dream about,” Forsberg mused. “I hope to get to achieve it someday.”