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Penguins GM during confrontation with columnist: ‘You’re a (expletive) jerk’

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Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford allegedly confronted Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Rob Rossi in a Consol Energy Center elevator on Monday night. The Pens’ first-year GM apparently is unhappy with some critical columns Rossi has penned about the team over the past several months and finally decided enough was enough, letting the writer have it a rant peppered with expletives.

Rossi recounted the confrontation as follows.

After exiting a media elevator and while walking with other reporters to the Penguins’ dressing room, Rutherford addressed this columnist, a frequent critic since his hiring last June, in an obscenity-laced diatribe.

“Thanks for your support,” Rutherford said repeatedly.

“You’re a (expletive) jerk,” Rutherford said repeatedly.

Rossi wrote that Rutherford continued his rant by suggesting he “go sell ice cream, now.” Rutherford then allegedly challenged Rossi to look him in the eye, which the writer did, saying he then explained his role as a sports columnist, telling the GM that his job is to provide an opinion.

“Well, your opinion is (expletive),” Rutherford reportedly told the columnist.

The columns that likely rankled Rutherford to such an extent as to inspire an expletive-ridden rant are believed to be, according to Pro Hockey Talk’s Dhiren Mahiban, one Rossi wrote a few weeks ago in which he criticized the first-year general manager while pointing out some of his failures. And then, last Wednesday, Rossi suggested in a column on the first day of the playoffs that head coach Mike Johnston is likely to be fired once the Penguins’ postseason run is finished.

The alleged incident occurred following Pittsburgh’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers — leaving the Penguins down 2-1 in its first-round series — arguably helping explain in part why Rossi may have been in such an exceptionally surly mood.

Still, as unhappy as Rutherford may have been with Rossi’s columns, it’s relatively uncommon for a team executive to go off to such a degree on a member of the media … or it’s at least not often reported with such specificity.

Between this incident and the expletive-laden meltdown — 77 f-bombs in all — directed at the media on Monday by Cincinnati Reds skipper Bryan Rice, it’s been a bad week for media relations in sports.

(photo credit: KDKA)