Matt Bartkowski

Bartkowski: If not for Mario Lemieux, I wouldn’t be playing hockey


It all must be a little surreal for Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon, Bartkowski is about to face off against the team he used to support as a youngster, with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.

Oh, and one of his Boston teammates happens to be one of his boyhood idols, Jaromir Jagr.

In fact, Bartkowski, 24, told reporters today that he grew up with posters of Jagr and Mario Lemieux on his wall.

He also credited Lemieux, now the owner of the Penguins, for playing hockey in the first place.

“I was part of the Lemieux era and I probably wouldn’t have been skating if he wasn’t there,” said Bartkowski, per Dan Cagen of the MetroWest Daily News.

Before Pittsburgh drafted Lemieux first overall in 1984, the Penguins were on the verge of financial collapse. Average attendance at the old Civic Arena was a mere 6,839 during the 1983-84 season, which saw the Pens post a record of 16-58-6. (See: this Sports Illustrated article.)

Fast forward to the present (past another financial crisis barely averted for the club) and it’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin that are helping youth-hockey participation rates skyrocket in Western Pennsylvania.

As we wrote this morning, Bartkowski, along with defensive partner Johnny Boychuk, could be seeing a lot of Crosby in the Bruins-Penguins series.

“It’s kind of cool that I get to play playoffs in my home town,” Bartkowski said, “but at the end of the day I’m on Boston and that’s Pittsburgh and we’re there to win.”

Flames release Ryan Wilson from PTO

Ryan Wilson, Sidney Crosby
Leave a comment

The Calgary Flames have released Ryan Wilson from his professional tryout.

The 28-year-old was trying to make a comeback after missing 79 games with a shoulder injury last season.

Even with T.J. Brodie sidelined because of a broken hand, Wilson still faced long odds to make the final roster.

The veteran will be hard-pressed to find NHL work with another team.

He hasn’t suited up in more than 12 regular season games since 2011-12.

The Stockton Heat, Calgary’s AHL affiliate, also made some news on Sunday.

The club announced that they’ve signed Colton Orr to an AHL contract.

The 33-year-old tough guy suited up in just one game for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. He has 12 seasons of NHL experience under his belt.

‘Yotes return Dylan Strome to OHL

Dylan Strome, Nikita Nikitin

The Arizona Coyotes have returned Dylan Strome to the Erie Otters of the OHL.

Strome, 18, was the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

The 6’3, 185 pounder was hoping to stick with the Coyotes this season, but the team decided to take the conservative approach with their top prospect.

Strome will look to build off an incredible junior season that saw him score 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games.

Strome seems to be taking the demotion in stride.

The team also announced that they’ve assigned goaltender Louis Domingue and forward Matthias Plachta to their AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Domingue, 23, had a 1-2-1 record with a 2.73 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in seven games last season.

Plachta, a free agent signing, will begin his first pro season in North America. The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 35 points in the German League last season.