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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford focusing on 'big picture' as he awaits hockey's return

Matt Vensel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Hockey

Jim Rutherford, like many other Pittsburghers, found himself in front of the TV on Wednesday morning watching a replay of Game 6 of the 1991 Stanley Cup final, when Mario Lemieux and the Penguins lifted the first of their five Cups.

"It's not something I was planning on doing at this time of the year," the Penguins general manager said a couple hours later on a conference call. "But ... to go back and watch it again this morning, it was a lot of fun watching those guys."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic reached North America and the sports world shut down, the Penguins were gearing up for a playoff run. They hit a rough patch in February. But they still looked to be good enough for aging cornerstones Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to get a good shot at another Cup.

But that would-be playoff run was stalled, perhaps permanently, two weeks ago while the Penguins were in Columbus. The NHL followed the lead of the NBA and suspended its season in the hopes of finishing it in the coming months.

Since the Penguins flew back to Pittsburgh that day, March 12, Rutherford has been "locked down" at home with his wife, young son and two dogs.

In his first public comments since the NHL season was suspended, Rutherford said he is focused on "the big picture," not the disappointment of seeing one of the last opportunities for Crosby and Co. potentially going down the drain.

 

"I view the big picture as the priority now," he said. "The most important thing to me is that everybody follows the guidelines, they stay safe and they stay healthy. Obviously, my priority is my family. But also the Penguins family is very important to me -- all the workers, all our fans and our whole community. ... It's something that nobody thought was coming. And we have to adjust to it. But we live in a great country. And we live in a great, great city (where) people have gone through tough times. And we'll pull through this together.

"Hopefully, people follow the guidelines. Because if we follow the guidelines from the government and the doctors and the CDC and the people that understand this better than us, then we can get back to a normal life sooner than later."

Being at home with his loved ones the past 13 days has led to reflection for the 71-year-old, who had a humble upbringing in Beeton, Ontario. He spoke about the "admiration and the respect" he has for his parents, who are deceased.

"We just spent a lot of time at home. We were just around the house, really, a lot. My family lived from check to check. We didn't have very much. And so we didn't do extra things. We ate the same dinner, the same food, for three nights in a row and things like that," he said. "Those are the things we're doing now."

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