Frankie O: Joe Pa passing the torch to Coach Fitz

Frankie O: Joe Pa passing the torch to Coach Fitz

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010
4:49 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Growing up outside of Philadelphia, there was only one college football team that I rooted for. It wasnt like college basketball, and the Big Five, where as a kid, my rooting interest could change from year to year, depending on who was making a run. No, where I was from, there was only one team: Penn State. And that team was, and still is, dominated by one man: Joe Paterno. Joe-Pa. He has been wearing his white socks and short pant-legs on the Penn State sidelines since 1950! Hes in his 61st season, first as an assistant, then as the head-coach since 1966. In an age of carpet-bagger coaches and a win-at-all-costs sport, he is a constant reminder of how it used to be, make that, how it should be. One of the frequent questions I get at the bar, since I did some time at PSU, is: When is Joe going to retire? To them, its like hes in a race that is already over. I always smile, and say, Whenever he wants to, which means: NEVER. I then add that hes earned the right to do whatever he wants. He has built the program to what it is: One of the most storied programs in college football that has over 107,000(!) devout followers in Beaver Stadium every time they play. But its more than that, way more. For those of us that follow the program, he does represent a connection to our pasts, because hes been there so long, but he also is a testament to doing it right. The thing about Joe is that he has never been shy about voicing his opinion.

Much like my parents, when I was younger I didnt always get where he was coming from, (Im sure he has a few players that feel the same way.) but as I have gotten much, much older, he makes more sense every day. I think the term, old school values, would fit him, and our perception of him, very well. His being where he is, in every sense of the word, is one of the few constants of my life and one that I treasure. (I want him on that wall. I need him on that wall!) So for me, Joe can stay as long as he likes, no matter what his record is, which of late, is pretty darn good: In the last 5 seasons PSU is 57-16, with a 32-13 record in the Big Ten and a 4-1 mark in bowl games. Not bad for someone too old to do his job. But like I said it is more than just his record.

Like anyone else that follows college football, I was very interested in seeing Joe get win number four-hundred. If someone has to reach that plateau, it should be him. Of course, in what has been a recurring theme for me sports-wise lately, the game did offer some conflict. My new guilty-pleasure in college football has been rooting for the Northwestern Wildcats. Since Ive lived in Chicago, they have risen above their well deserved history as football laughingstocks. The thing that has really gotten my attention though, is that they seem to be doing it the right way. Especially since Pat Fitzgerald has taken over. Hes a local that went to NU and starred as a 2-time All-America. He then wanted to coach at his alma mater. That is where he wants to be. Although he got the head-coaching job a little sooner than anyone would have liked due to the tragic passing of then coach Randy Walker, he was where he belonged. That he publicly rebuffed Notre Dame during their last head-coaching search only endeared him more to me. Hes a hot commodity in coaching circles, but wants to stay where he feels he belongs. He kind of reminds me of a young you-know-who. I guess it was fitting then in Joes quest for 400 that he would be standing across the field. Talk about the past versus the present, who writes this stuff? But thats the fun of sports and life. Sometimes the stars align in ways you never imagined.

It was a great game. It was loaded with action, back and forth and the energy from the stadium leapt out from the TV screen, a great fall afternoon of Big Ten football. But oddly enough that wont be my lasting memory, or the image that stayed with me. That occurred after the game, when both head-coaches met at the center of the field for the post-game congratulatory hand-shake. It started as a hand-shake, then a semi-embrace, then a connection of foreheads as Fitz congratulated Joe, then Joe began to talk, and talk. The respect and affection that they shared for each other was more than obvious. In fact, it was one of the coolest TV moments I can remember. Could you imagine being a young head-coach and having one of the gods sharing his thoughts with you, in what is supposed to be his moment? Can you imagine being near the end, and at the top, and sharing with someone whom you feel is worthy of carrying on? It was a moment of clarity for me, Mr. Cynical, about the goodness that can come from the big-business that has become college football. That you can still compete, but not have to sacrifice everything you stand for to do so. So as I watched their exchange, I felt good that the legacy of Joe was being passed on. That it is being passed on to someone who represents another team, makes it even better.

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

When Scott Darling and Antti Raanta vied for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending job two seasons ago, there was definitely a strong competition. But it was still one built on respect.

“We had no bad blood in that situation,” Darling said on Friday. “We’ve remained friends. He’s having a great season and I’m happy for him.”

On this night, Raanta may have been just a bit happier.

Raanta stopped all 26 shots he saw against his former team, notching his first shutout of this season, and Nick Holden gave the New York Rangers a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night. The Blackhawks are 1-2-1 in their last four games but remain atop the Western Conference with 38 points.

The Blackhawks were missing Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford in this one. Nevertheless, it was a tight game, one in which both goaltenders were stellar. Darling stopped 36 of 37 shots – Holden’s overtime winner was the first goaltender allowed to New York in two games against them.

Considering the players missing, the Blackhawks will take the point.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“With or without Toews, you’re always thinking when it’s in the third period and it’s close and getting inside 10 minutes, let’s get it to overtime,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve seen a ton of overtimes in the league. You gotta get the one point. We’ve had some success trying to get the extra one. Tonight, not, but that’s got to be the mindset.”

The Blackhawks were close to taking the 1-0 lead six minutes into the third period, when Marian Hossa thought he scored his 15th goal of the season. But the Rangers challenged for offside. Upon further review, the goal was nullified.

“Well, obviously that’s a tough one,” Hossa said. “I mean, I didn’t notice it was close to offside but obviously with today’s technology, with this new rule, it’s a game of inches. It’s slowing the game down, I think. You’re getting confused, what exactly the coaches are looking for. They created this new rule and we just have to deal with it. But sometimes it’s more frustrating because the league wants to increase the scoring and right now, I think more goals are disallowed because of this.”

Hartman, who had the pass to Hossa, was also disappointed but agreed with the review’s ruling.

“You get your excitement up a little bit and you try not to get too ahead of yourself when you know they are reviewing it. You just try to see it as both ways, if they do call it a goal, if they call it back,” Hartman said. “Obviously it was the right call. It was just a tough one.”

The Blackhawks will take the point out of this one. Despite the players they were without they played a solid game. They had good, quality scoring chances. Their current backup was just slightly bested by their previous one.

“Both [goalies] were great, both [teams] had excellent looks at the net,” Quenneville said. “We missed some good opportunities on 2-on-1s and they had some good looks around Darling as well. Both guys got their teams to overtime, got a point. It’s a good point if you want to look at it like that. I didn’t mind the way we played but Darls was excellent.”

Blackhawks preparing for EPIX all-access look leading up to Winter Classic

Blackhawks preparing for EPIX all-access look leading up to Winter Classic

The 2017 Winter Classic featuring the Blackhawks and Blues is right around the corner.

Players from both sides already squared off in a game of NHL 17 to generate some hype into the game, but nothing compares to behind-the-scenes footage of the two teams leading up to it.

Beginning Dec. 16 at 9 p.m., EPIX will air a one-hour episode each week that provides an all-access look inside the lives of the Blackhawks and Blues, on and off the ice.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The game will be on Jan. 2 at 12 p.m. on NBC, with the final episode airing Friday, Jan. 6.

Here's a two-minute preview involving the Blackhawks, who are labeled "A Good Bunch of Guys."