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The Stoosh

One of the only burghsportsguys.com staffers that is not a native of the Pittsburgh area, Stoosh hails from the booming lakeside metropolis of Erie, Pennsylvania. A lifelong sports fan, it was the call of higher education, plus an extended exposure to lake fumes that brought Stoosh to southwest Pennsylvania in August of 1994, and he's graced the Pittsburgh area with his presence ever since.

Stoosh's rooting interest in sports developed around the age of five or six not with hockey or football, but rather the Saturday afternoon phenomenon that was professional bowling. Some kids idolized Franco Harris or Terry Bradshaw. Stoosh's first sports hero was Earl Anthony. Then you wonder why he turned out the way he did.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, young Stoosh became a little more mainstream and discovered the Sunday afternoon phenomenon of the National Football League. Most people growing up in Erie were Browns, Bills or Steelers fans. Again defying convention, Stoosh's favorite team became the Seattle Seahawks, partly because he thought their uniforms and logo looked cool, but also because of a smallish wide receiver named Steve Largent. Largent remains Stoosh's favorite NFL player to this day, and Stoosh vehemently maintains that Largent is still the best receiver ever to play in the league, Jerry Rice be damned.

It was right around 1986 or 1987 that he also began to follow the splendid sport of hockey. At the time that Stoosh first began to develop his interest in the game, hockey was still years away from anything resembling regular coverage. Consequently, Stoosh's exposure to the sport was limited to occasional Buffalo Sabres telecasts, the odd Hockey Night in Canada broadcast that would be picked up every once in a while from the Canadian TV stations across the lake, and the annual All-Star games. Nevertheless, Stoosh's interest in hockey grew quickly, fueled by backyard hockey games, his collection of hockey cards, Erie Panthers games (ECHL) and whatever NHL action he was able to catch on television.

While the Penguins, North Stars, and Calgary Flames were among his favorites, nothing could top his beloved Vancouver Canucks. Whether it was a combination of the snazzy uniforms or the presence of Finnish forward Petri Skriko, or a combination of both, Stoosh isn't exactly sure. Whatever it was, Stoosh was hooked and he became a diehard Canucklehead.

To know Stoosh the Canucklehead is to know the legend of the 1994 Canucks. If you haven't heard about them and you have a few hours to kill, ask Stoosh about them. He'll be happy to tell you. Despite the fact that the Canucks entered the playoffs following the 93-94 season as the seventh seed in the West, Stoosh still regards them as the best hockey team in recorded history. There was Pavel Bure whose breakaway winner in the Calgary series stands in Stoosh's mind as the second-greatest breakaway goal in history, and whose "mother of all elbows" to the skull of Shane Churla still stands as the best cheap-shot ever.. There was Trevor Linden and Greg "Gus" Adams, Clifford (Ronning) and Sergio Momesso. There was Geoff COURT-nall (that's how Gary Thorne used to call it), Marty Gelinas, Gino Odjick and Bryan Glynn. There was Gus Adams knocking in a rebound to beat the Leafs and send the Canucks to the Cup Finals against the Rangers. There were the Canucks coming back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to send it to seven games. Then, there was Game Seven. Stoosh, to this day, refuses to discuss Game Seven, saying only that after the game and series ended with a Canucks loss, he sat staring blankly at the television in utter disbelief for three hours. Needless to say, that game is directly responsible for his unbridled hatred of the New York Ranger organ-I-zation. Nevertheless, the '94 Canucks remain proud legendary figures in the mind of Stoosh.

It wasn't until he moved to the Pittsburgh area in August of 1994 that his allegiance began to shift towards the Pittsburgh sports teams. He attended his first ever NHL game during the 1995-96 campaign when the Pens faced off against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and he's been a diehard Pens fan ever since. (Note: His allegiance to the Canucks was severely diminished by both their uniform change and Pavel Bure's transformation from superstar-caliber hockey badass to whiny prima donna).

Both he and the staff writer known as Gaylord M. Focker went to college together, and as such, many days during the 1997 and 1998 school years were spent not studying, but beating the ever-living crap out of each other in Playstation hockey games. Both were in attendance for Mario Lemieux's 600th career goal against (drum roll, please) the Vancouver Canucks. Both were also in the Arena for what was- at least up until his return- thought to be Mario's last goal in Mellon Arena, the breakaway against the Flyers in the '97 playoffs that Stoosh ranks as perhaps the best single goal ever in the NHL. Both Stoosh and Focker were also season-ticket holders during Lemieux's comeback season.

Stoosh remains a diehard Pens fan to this day, but is increasingly disenfranchised with NHL Commissioner and assclown emeritus Gary Bettman's absolute refusal to admit that the game currently sucks. He lists Ronnie Francis as his favorite NHL hockey player ever, with Mario running a very close second. Stoosh also lists Cam Neely, Ilya Kovalchuk, Hakan Loob, Joel Otto, Pat LaFontaine, Mike Modano and Mark Tinordi among his favorite all-time hockey players.

Stoosh's other hockey passion is junior hockey, specifically the Ontario Hockey League and his hometown Erie Otters, who won the 2001-2002 OHL Championship and finished in third place in last year's Memorial Cup. Anyone who has ever watched an NHL game in his company over the last four or five years knows specifically which NHL players have worn the blue, red, and yellow of the Otters, because Stoosh has never hesitated to make such facts known. Among those who he has seen play against his beloved Otters are current Penguins Rico Fata and Tom Kostopoulos.

A graduate of Erie Cathedral Prep and the best scout team running back and safety in Erie high school football history, Stoosh presently takes up residence, along with his better half, in the scenic suburb of Moon Township. When not working or watching sports, he can usually be found huffing and puffing around a dek hockey rink, along with Focker and the rest of their team. Stoosh is also a member of Focker's fantasy football league and is desperately trying to break his franchise's long-standing bout with futility.

Besides sports, Stoosh enjoys all sorts of music and movies, Erie, trips to Myrtle Beach, roller coasters (specifically those located at Cedar Point), chicken parmesan, beer (Miller Lite or Corona), sunsets, Grape Nuts, cold meatloaf sandwiches, the annual Lenten fish fries at the Coraopolis Elks Club, long walks on the beach, and he's the kind of guy you want to bring home to mom and dad.