I started bringing my daughter to Kings games last November, after I bought season tickets behind one of their goals for the season. She knew nothing about hockey, started learning on the fly, and ended up liking the sport about 100 times more than I ever expected. One of her first questions: "Why are the fans so mad at Penner?"
My answer was simple: Kings fans believed Penner made too much money and didn't try hard enough. In the Salary Cap Era, you can't pay a hockey player $4.25 million for piddling results. My daughter never accepted that, nor did she understand it. She thought Penner was trying. She thought the fans were being too mean. She didn't care how much money he made. Anytime someone derisively screamed that Penner sucked, she'd whirl around with a wounded look on her face. She didn't understand the concept of "motivating someone by being relentlessly mean to them."
Meanwhile, the Kings changed coaches, yanked Penner's playing time around, shopped him at the trade deadline, even sent him home for "conditioning" reasons. None of it worked. Penner was mired in the slump of slumps. In his first 90 games with the Kings, he only scored ten times. His goals happened so infrequently that one of the diehards in our row — Julia, who's famous in Section 115 for pouncing on any puck that somehow squeezes through the net and falls toward the fans — sarcastically promised to wear a Penner jersey if he scored in a certain game. Of course, he did. Suddenly she was wearing Penner's jersey as people gawked at her in disbelief. A Penner jersey? Was this supposed to be ironic?
B.S. Report: Dustin Penner
Grantland | May 29