Peter Tagliannetti, Penguins Defenseman
First, can you tell readers more about your Power Play Training Program?
Being a low-to-middle aged man, the toughest thing as you get older is to stay active and do things to the extreme you did when you were 20.
I’m a certified personal trainer and see clients of other trainers being taught to stay active the way the trainers do it. The trainers put their beliefs in others that don’t really need to do things the same way. There are lots of those trainers out there that try to force their clients into one way of doing things – their way,
I can’t stand that. There are many guys who play on men’s hockey leagues at night who want to stay active and healthy. Well I try to give them a quick synopsis of how to get their leg and butt strength muscles stronger in ways that work for them.
We know now you don’t have to stop working out hard after 30 – your body can take it. 40 is now the new 30 and these middle-aged guys playing hockey at night can still do all of the things to train even at 40 – so there’s an untapped market for helping those guys that was being neglected before this training series.
I met Dr. Wright through my son. He plays football at the University of Pittsburgh and she was the orthopedic surgeon there. Her passion was the senior athlete – those over 30 that liked to bike, play hockey, golf, whatever. She had a core set of training principles that worked for these guys and she And developed the series together.
So far the series is going well. Pittsburgh is a growing market – not yet like Boston or Minnesota that has a rink or two in every town – it’s not there yet, but it’s growing.
You came out of Providence college with a record for the most penalty minutes that still stands. Were you just “misunderstood” in college?
I played under Lou Lamoriello – who became the NJ Devils GM later. He was able to pull players out of areas like Boston which was really hard to do. He had our team all in black – black helmets and shirts… He was one of the first people to start off-ice training – aerobics, stress-testing and more – before many pro teams even.
We had guys that were bigger and nastier – but we were good too. We finished 2nd and 3rd there. We were just bigger and stronger – we hit harder and were nastier. There was always lots of pushing and shoving – lots of brawling on that team.
You started off in Winnipeg but were traded ultimately to the penguins and played along Paul Coffey. How was that for you?
When I was in Winnipeg I played next to Randy Carlyle – he was a Norris Trophy winner himself and I learned a lot from him. I was traded first to Minnesota then to Pittsburgh – all in about three months time.
When I got to Pittsburgh it was like coming home – I knew almost everyone from college and the minors already. Coffey already won like 3-4 Norris Trophies. When Larry Murphy and I got in after the trade around 12 and were going to be playing that night, Coffey pulled me aside and talked to me about how we could get involved more offensively, I just laughed and told him he was the offensive
guy – my job was just to keep the puck out of the net (laughing).
What players or coaches do you remember most from those Stanley Cup seasons?
When Bob Johnson was coach, he never yelled, never shouted or said anything negative. When you play sports you’re used to getting yelled at – but he was just never like that. He always explained but never yelled.
As the season went along we’d win a couple games and lose a couple games – we were nothing spectacular. We lost I think 6-1 one game and were just waiting for him to blow up, but he never did. After a while it sunk in – he was for real. We stopped worrying about making mistakes so much. We could play our game.
It was so much fun to play and practice then. The entire philosophy of the team just changed -you could feel it. And we played much better because of it.
After you retired in 1996, you became the hockey coach at Washington and Jefferson College after playing in the NHL – how did that come about and did you enjoy it?
I happened to be doing business there and was talking to the Athletic Director. He asked if I would be interested in coaching. I said I could handle a couple days a week at first and did it.
I loved it. We had some good teams. It was hard to get kids there – the school took so few kids and it was a small school.
The kids weren’t jocks but they worked hard and loved hockey. I stayed there for two years but some parents started creating issues behind my back and I had enough and walked away from it.
What NHL experiences and coaches helped shape your coaching career – and how so?
I was always taught and told the kids I coached that hockey isn’t rocket science. Hockey isn’t all X’s and O’s like other sports – not like football. No matter what you do, the same things come around and happen again in games. You just ave to keep doing what you are doing.
As an example – if I’m n the defensive zone and the other defenseman with the puck gets it to the right side – he has only two options, so you have to anticipate where things are going. Don’t wait – you have to be three steps ahead.
What facet of your game do you think was most unappreciated?
People said I was tough-nosed – I hit the body. But I took more pride in keeping goals out of my net and having a good +/- I strived for that.
I remember playing for Tampa Bay in its expansion season. I was +16 or 17 even though we had only like 20 wins. The next person was round -5.
People look at goals and assists – back then it was all about that. Just like in football – the quarterbacks and wide receivers get the glory – the lineman get no glory.
When we were going to play Edmonton in the playoffs, we had a few games to play first – one against Calgary. I was just traded and Calgary was my first game. We were playing Calgary and their big star stopped short right before the blue line and I nailed him. It caused a bench clearing brawl.
Afterwards GM Ferguson grabbed me by the shirt, dragged me in front of the team and said “this is the kind of guy I want on my team!”
I played with tremendous college players who never found their niche in the NHL. You have to find your niche. You can play for anybody f you find you niche. Find something you can do well. That’s what I did. I found my niche. I knew I was not going to score 15-20 goals and I adapted to that.
Ok –the Yokozuna Bodyslam Challenge onboard the USS Intrepid. What was that about and how did you get involved??
When I played I Tampa Bay all the wrestlers lived there. Jimmy Hart used to come to the games with his kids and he and I became friends – you remember him, the manager with the bullhorn?
When I was traded to Pittsburgh I got a call from Vince McMahon. They wanted athletes from different sports for a charity event for the armed forces. Hart told Vince he knew me and that’s how I got invited.
They brought me and my kids to New York and had a big reception in a hotel there with all the wrestlers.
The next day we went to the Intrepid I remember the Steiner Brothers wrestling on the floor with my kids and the wrestlers talking about the pranks they played on each other – a lot of this stuff well above the kids level (laughing). I think I moved Yokozuna maybe 6 inches when it was my turn (laughing).
And last thoughts for readers?
It’s funny how its been 20 years since those Stanley Cup seasons.
Time has flown by. I never get sick of talking about it. People think we get tired of talking about this stuff but we never do if the questions and people are sincere about their interest.
Next week is the 20-year reunion. I can’t wait to get together with all of the guys in Pittsburgh and relive those stories. And be reminded of ones I forgot about.
That’s one of the great things about seeing those guys – remembering those great times.