In the wake of the Pittsburgh Penguins firing their coach Michel Therrien, for some, there are more pressing employment issues surrounding the Penguins.
On Sunday, rumors spread quickly around the city that a shake up was in store for the Pens. When news came down that it was Therrien who had lost his job, there was much relief in the concession offices at Mellon Arena and around the city.
For the last two weeks, many have believed that long-time Cracker Jack vendor Bill Stevens had fallen out of favor with the organization. Mr. Stevens, a 23-year veteran of delivering the snack to fans at Mellon Arena, had admittedly been struggling this season.
"You know, I'm getting a little old," Mr. Stevens, 53 years old, said in a phone interview. "I'll admit I've been a bit shaky this season. I'm not making change as quickly as I used to and my voice is getting a little raspy. You know, it's not all that often someone can stay in this business as long as I have."
Fans in the upper sections of Mellon Arena, the area Mr. Stevens patrols on game nights, have been some of his biggest supporters.
"Bill is an institution," said John Vivino a Penguins season ticket holder. "Even at his age, he's still one of the best out there... I think that with [the Penguins] underachieving this season, he's put some of the blame for that on himself. He's been a little down and I think it's hurt his game. Maybe it's a Finals hangover of sorts."
And of course, many of his fans were relived when the big firing coming out of Pittsburgh today was Therrien and not Stevens.
"I thought he was gone for sure," said Bonnie Upwold who has bought Cracker Jack from Stevens for, she says, the last ten years. "I've known John for a while and he's going through a tough time. But I think I can speak for Penguins fans everywhere when I say we're relieved he'll be back."
Penguins GM Ray Shero has called a news conference for 5pm today. He is expected to announce the retention of Mr. Stevens through the 2011-12 season. When told about it, Mr. Stevens said it was "an honor" and that things may get better now.
"It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Stevens. "I'm glad to be a Penguin for a few more years and I think both the team and fans will like what they see from me during the stretch run."
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