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Friday, October 10, 2014

Meet the @PensInitiative Team: 10 Questions with @kjcmalakai

Rocking some Winter Classic gear
at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Ken Clawson

Pens fan since: May 25, 1991
Hometown: Plum Borough, PA
Current town: Germantown, MD
Favorite Pens Player: Gary Roberts

The purpose of "Meet the +Pens Initiative Team" is to highlight all of the moving gears behind the PensInitiative machine. Some team members you know, and some you may not. This series is to let our reader know who does what, why they do it, and why you should care.

Ken is one my oldest friends. Knowing him for almost 20 years we have always been hockey fans growing up in Pittsburgh together. During our college years we lived together for one blurred year and we took advantage of a new Student Rush program the Penguins offered selling anything we could to make it to games. When Ken left his career to raise his two beautiful children a window of opportunity opened up to spend some of his free time writing.

What made you fall in love with hockey and the Penguins?

My uncle who was in the Marines had just moved back to the states from Okinawa and the first family get together that we had was May 25, 1991.  It wasn't to get together to watch the Stanley Cup Finals, it was because it was Memorial Day Weekend and we were having a family barbecue.  I looked forward to these because all of my cousins and uncles would get together and play wiffle ball or some other game with a ball, but none of my uncles could be found.  I was in the basement of my uncle's house playing Little Tikes basketball with my younger cousins when I broke my thumb dunking on them.  I went upstairs and found my family huddled around the TV watching a hockey game.  Being from Pittsburgh, I of course have a fondness for all of my hometown teams and knew who the Penguins and Mario Lemieux were at the time.  It wasn't until this moment that I knew that a Pittsburgh team was going to be the best and win a championship.  I watched the rest of the game with my family, broken thumb and all and fell in love with hockey.

What is your favorite Penguins moment?

Besides winning the cup because those are obvious choices and must be at the top of any favorite moment list, it would have to be Mario's first game of his comeback.  Me and some high school buddies were looking for a place to "go out" and watch that game.  Since I was the only one in the group over 21, we went to the Ground Round in Monroeville.  I had never set foot in there before and can not recall what made us go there.  I do remember that before we sat down, Mario assisted on a Jagr goal 33 seconds into the game echoing a similar feat from his rookie season when he scored a goal during his first ever NHL shift.

Explain why Gary Roberts is your favorite player.


He is just the ultimate bad ass in my opinion. . When he wanted to fight the entirety of the Ottawa Senators lineup in the 2008 playoffs, I was sold.  The look he gives, that steely eyed gaze, is a look that I hope I never have anyone ever give me because it means bad things are about to happen. Chuck Norris runs from that look.  My good friend had a dream during the 2008 playoffs that Gary Roberts was my dad because of the angry sounding answering machine messages that would my dad would leave when he called our house the year that me and my buddy were roommates.

Is is tough being a Pens fan in Caps territory?

I wouldn't say tough, but it is definitely annoying.  Most Crapitals fans see the Penguins as their number one rival while most Pens fans wouldn't say the same.  Because of this I get a lot of grief about Crosby versus Ovechkin which isn't really a competition in my mind, much like Crosby versus Giroux for Philly fans.  Ovie is their guy so of course they are going to defend him and I understand that.  It's just nice to know that deep down they (at least the hockey intelligent ones and not the homers) have to know how much better of an overall player Crosby is.  Since both teams are now in the Metropolitan division and not just in the Eastern Conference, maybe more Pittsburgh fans will start to develop a rivalry with DC, but as long as that city in the eastern section of Pennsylvania exists, 1975 will always be number one.

Favorite Pens sweater design?

The away sweaters introduced in 1992-1993, the black sweater with the Pittsburgh in diagonal
You're my favorite human body, Ken!
lettering.  It kept the black and gold colors but threw back to the sweaters of the inaugural 1967-1968 season with the diagonal Pittsburgh lettering.  I've always been a sucker for the city or area in which the team represents being on the jersey.  I think the green Minnesota Wild sweater with the script Minnesota in the beige color are the best looking sweaters in the NHL, despite "Wild" being one of the worst team nicknames  Seriously, it's ECHL level.  By the way, best team nickname ever came from the ECHL- the Macon Whoopee.

What aspect of the game do you enjoy writing about the most?

I like writing about things that the hockey fan with just an average level of hockey knowledge might not know about.  That is how I see myself.  I love the sport and I love the Penguins, but there are plenty of writers out there who know a whole heck of a lot more about the sport than I do.  I feel I can present parts of the game to the average hockey knowledge fan in a way that they can better understand because it is like I am writing for myself.

How did you get involved with PensInititaive?

I started a blog when I became a stay at home dad called 57 Ways to Screw Up My Children.  I really liked doing as it gave me something quasi-productive to do while I wasn't entrenched in the burdens of child rearing.  I wrote about 17 posts or so before I stopped doing it because I started to think that maybe I didn't want my children's lives out on the internet, but I knew I wanted to keep writing.  Before the season started last year, I sent a tweet to Paul saying that I wanted to write a Capitals season preview.  He encouraged me and said that he would love for me to write something.  I sent back a tweet, "They suck, who cares, they're irrelevant".  That was my season preview article.  This year, on a whim, I decided to do it for real and sent Paul what I wrote.  It was then put up on the site and I was invited to write full time.

What do you do for PensInitiative?

Well, as one of the newest members of PI, I basically do whatever Paul tells me to do, kind of like Forrest Gump with Drill Sergeants.  Currently I am writing pieces that go up on the site every Wednesday.  Since I have a week between when my work goes up, I try to make them a little more involved with a topic that requires some research to back up what I am thinking about a topic that hasn't received a lot of attention.  Sometimes the topic is current news, sometimes it is more abstract thinking.

What do you like most about PensInitiative?

The incredible mix of talent that has been compiled here.  I've only been here about a month and already I have learned so much and learned that there is much much more to learn.  Even still, the rest of the members don't step on each others toes regarding what is put up on the site and everyone lets each other do their own thing.  Also, everyone is incredibly supportive of each others writing and getting it out there so that the highest number of people can read it.

Explain, step by step, the proper way to order, receive, and eat a pizza.

Far and away my favorite question and definitely the easiest to answer.

Step 1:  Determine if you or your roommate still has money on a credit card that was foolishly given to you by a company signing up freshmen who didn't know any better.  If the answer is no money left, cry yourself to sleep in a steel cage bed.  If the answer is one of you has money, proceed to step

Step 2:  Order Papa Johns one-topping pizza and bread stick special.

Step 3:  Play NHL FaceOff 98 or race Chocobos until you get the call from the pizza person that they are downstairs with your delicious pizza.

Step 4:  Run as fast as you can down 5 flights of stairs making sure to punch the spot on one of the landings where the plaster is loose so that you expose more of the wire mesh underneath.

Step 5:  Sign the credit card slip that is now at 29% interest because you are a responsible college freshman.

Step 6:  Run back up stairs repeating the process from Step 4.

Step 7:  Enjoy your delicious pizza while continuing to play NHL FaceOff 98 or race Chocobos.

Step 8:  Light the empty box on fire and leave it in the hall or throw it out the window.

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