Since James Neal is back in town tonight to face off against his former team, I thought it was appropriate that we revisit the most memorable moment in the James Neal Penguins era. But first, let’s review the build up to March 24, 2014 – aka the day the Penguins cemented Neal to a piece of internet history.
James Neal started his career in Pittsburgh like a rockstar. Most notably, in his second season with the Penguins in 2011-2012, Neal developed into a sniper scoring 40 goals – all while Sidney Crosby missed the bulk of the season with recurring concussion symptoms. Showing enormous potential to fit the mold of an already star-studded team, former Penguins GM, Ray Shero, was quick to extend Neal to a $30 million contract that year. Then, shit started to hit the fan. During round 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Penguins got bounced out in embarrassing fashion to the Flyers in six games. During game 3 of that series, James Neal tried to take off Sean Couturier’s head. Then, one shift later, he tried to do the same to Claude Giroux. He was promptly suspended one game for being a maniac.
As James Neal’s play began to slip during his remaining two years in Pittsburgh, he continued to try and decapitate more players. In 2013, Neal was suspended 5 games for delivering an absolutely dirty knee to Brad Marchand’s head while Marchand was already lying down on the ice.
Then, Neal (somehow only) got fined $5,000 for cross-checking Detroit forward Luke Glendening in the face later that season.
Needless to say, James Neal started to earn the reputation of a dirtball real fast. So when the Penguins Twitter account decided to do an “Ask Me Anything” with Neal a few days after that incident with Glendening, fans weren’t so kind to him. And the world was blessed with internet history.