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Ryan Malone shares story about Mario Lemieux the player/owner

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It was like the Wild West back in the day

Penguins v Hurricanes Photo By Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Former Penguin Ryan Malone went on Spittin’ Chiclets (the podcast of his old teammates Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette) and had quite the tale to tell about Mario Lemieux.

The clip is NSFW (why we saved it for after work hours) so beware of a little salty language.

Malone started the story mentioning as a wide-eyed young player he would often go out with the Penguins veterans on the road for dinner and drinks. Curfew was 10pm but often times was more of a suggestion than a rule for the older guys, but for a rookie like Malone it wouldn’t be wise to be staying out late before building up a solid professional reputation.

As Malone told the story, he went out with a couple of guys (veteran tough guy Kelly Buchberger was mentioned) on Long Island the night before a game against the Islanders. Bugsy said despite his night he did score the OT winning goal in the game — and a quick google search shows this did happen February 23, 2004 -so it’s cool that it’s verifiable and perhaps not even all that exaggerated or creative of a story.

Anyways, after the game coach Ed Olczyk called Malone into the office for a chat:

The fun thing is, that night Malone scored his team-high 19th goal. He’d go onto end his rookie season with 22 goals (also to lead the team). So while it sort of seems like Lemieux is flexing his power by over-ruling a coach, it’s probably just more about the insight of a knowing player. Lemieux’s been around long enough to know at that point that Malone is already a key Pens player and too good to send down and likely has little to worry about for a transgression like curfew. He did score the game-winner, after all, which pretty much absolves him anyways. Back then the Pens were doing everything possible just to win a couple games so a savvy vet would know for sure that a coach isn’t going to voluntarily remove one of his best players for a rules violation like that.

Conversely, it goes to show the naivety of the young player perspective as well. Despite playing well as a rookie Malone was still scared of the power of a coach. Probably any fan would figure Malone would be secured his spot in the NHL given how good a season he was having, but caught up in the moment getting interrogated by an authority figure, he was scared of getting shipped down and taking a demotion in pay too to go along with trading the charter plane trips for endless bus trips in the “minseys” as Colby Armstrong would say.

Also, after the clip ends Whitney and Bissonnette prod that Malone got back 12 midnight “west coast time”, hinting (as Malone’s face does as well in the video) that Malone was out a bit past what he owned up to with Olczyk. Still, he did score in overtime so all is well that ends well and a good night’s sleep apparently wasn’t necessary for Malone.

And it goes to show how different players today were even from rookies 15 years ago. These days training and diets are so much more advanced that young NHLers are far more likely to be up late playing Fortnite or other video games instead of out carousing with teammates at a restaurant or bar. The culture has definitely shifted a lot (for better or worse depending on your perspective) to be more focused and professional and serious.

Finally, hearing old teammates use the nickname “Ace” for Lemieux is just the most boss and fitting thing ever. Can never get enough of the old stories of the old days and goodness knows Ryan Malone has them for days. You can hear that one on Spittin Chiclets, available wherever you download your podcasts.