?The patience of Baldwin. The Penguins' success during the early '90s represents the crowning achievement of Baldwin's 23 years in the game. Having survived several lean years as an owner of the Whalers from 1971 to 1988, he is loath to return to the old days.
Baldwin likes to recall his first season with the Whalers, who then played their home games at Boston Garden in the World Hockey Association. Behind $50,000 on the rent to then Garden landlord Weston W. Adams, the Whalers were packing the team vans to leave for a playoff game when Adams ordered the Garden's Zamboni driver to block the vans from leaving the building. "The Zamboni might have stayed there forever, except Westie later discovered that the Zamboni was also blocking in his Corvette," says Baldwin.
The hard lessons of those years helped whet Baldwin's appetite for success. Winning the Cup did the rest. "When you've tasted success, there really is no turning back," he says. "In this age, in this small market, you can't burn down the house and start all over. This is a team designed to win the Stanley Cup now."
Out of the Woods
Certainly the road least traveled to the NHL must include that taken by 29-year-old Flame wing German Titov, who at week's end had nine goals and has been one of the early-season surprises.
Conscripted into the Soviet Red Army at 18, Titov was not given the plum officer assignments lavished upon his native land's most talented young hockey players. Instead he spent three years in an artillery division, an assignment Flame coach Dave King once likened to "doing time on a chain gang."
Paid seven rubles (then roughly $14) a month, Titov did not even touch skates for the three years—1983 to '86—he was in the army. Tethered to a military base, where he often lived in a tent, Titov passed most of his time doing sentry duty against imaginary enemies. "We had to guard our buildings," he says. "We were just watching."
But few were watching him. Upon leaving the army, he rejoined Khimik, a mediocre team in the Soviet National League, and spent six seasons in relative anonymity. However, while touring Canada with Khimik in the late 1980s, Titov caught the eye of King, who was then coaching the Canadian national team. After a successful season in Finland in 1992, Titov was taken by the Flames with the 252nd pick in the 1993 entry draft.
With star Calgary center Joe Nieuwendyk stewing over his contract, center Robert Reichel off to a slow start after a brief preseason holdout, and right wing Theo Fleury just getting over the flu, Titov has emerged as the Flames' best forward. He attributes his fast start to his grueling regimen during the lockout, during which he returned to Finland for two months and played for old coach Vladimir Yurzinov.
"When you go to play under a Russian coach, you have nothing else to do but play hockey," says Titov, who scored 27 goals last year. "We had practices twice a day. We lifted weights. I was so busy, all I did was go home and sleep."