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The Legend of Cardboard Orpik

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Things are already dicey on the injury front for the Penguins with Sidney Crosby (concussion), Tyler Kennedy (concussion), Brian Strait (elbow) and Zbynek Michalek (hand) all currently sidelined.

So you can understand why management was concerned when another member of the club went down at practice Friday afternoon: defensive stand-in Cardboard Brooks Orpik.

Cardboard Brooks Orpik
For those who aren’t aware, the Penguins have been using a cardboard (actually, it’s made from a thick metal, but cardboard sounds more fun) life-size, flat model of the real Brooks Orpik as a prop for practice drills.

“I figure a good shot-blocking Brooks Orpik, a physical guy, a durable guy out there was a good thing,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “That was a brainchild we had in the summer time to get some obstacles out there.”

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys having the Orpik effigy in front of him in spite of his circumstances and limitations because of the defenseman’s willingness to sacrifice his two-dimensional body to keep the puck away from his goalies.

“He made a couple saves,” Fleury said. “He had a couple blocks. He was good.”

Unfortunately, Cardboard Orpik has been plagued with injuries since joining the team this season. When he first arrived a month ago, he was propped up by two metal rods with tennis balls at the base. However, a powerful Jordan Staal slap shot in practice knocked him down violently. Luckily, Cardboard Orpik was unfazed. He didn’t change the expression on his face – didn’t even blink.

But following that hit, Cardboard Orpik was sidelined with an “instability” injury. He underwent surgery that replaced the metal rods with a heavy 2x4 plank of wood. After an arduous rehab process, Cardboard Orpik returned to practice Friday.

Cardboard Orpik looked strong early, stick checking Crosby and giving Penguins players fits around the slot area with his shot-blocking prowess. However, it wouldn’t be long before he had another scare.

This time forward Steve MacIntyre unleashed a heavy shot that hit Cardboard Orpik right in the ankle. He fell straight down face first. He was so stunned by the shot that his knees didn’t even bend – he just collapsed forward.

Assistant coach Todd Reirden quickly tossed his gloves and stick aside and came to the aid of his player, who again brushed it off – not even talking to the athletic trainers – and finished the practice.

Even though everything appears to be all right, defenseman Ben Lovejoy fears the worst.

“I actually think Cardboard Brooks Orpik is out 4 to 6 weeks,” Lovejoy said after practice. “Steve MacIntyre hit him with a really hard shot. He’s got a broken foot. The injuries just keep piling up for the Pens.”

Coach Bylsma had no update on his status.

“I didn’t see him out there today,” Bylsma said. “I knew he was going to be joining the guys. You can tell me how he did.”

The extent of Cardboard Orpik’s condition isn’t known right now. He wouldn’t reveal anything to media. In fact, he didn’t even say a word. Apparently, he’s the strong silent type – a loner.

But Cardboard Orpik will not be a loner much longer. Coach Bylsma hinted that he will soon be joined by Cardboard Kris Letang and Cardboard Paul Martin. What a happy trio.


He was originally propped up by two metal rods with tennis balls at the base back on Sept. 29 (left); caught looking the other way as Sidney Crosby fakes him out (right)

The day after making his debut, Cardboard Orpik watched as real Orpik practiced (left); No one is going to break into the Pens locker room with Cardboard Orpik at the helm. Thou shall not pass! (right)

After undergoing surgery, Cardboard Orpik made his return Friday after almost a month off the ice (left); asst. coaches Meloche and Reirden get him set up with his new wooden backing (right)

Cardboard Orpik looked strong early, stickchecking Crosby (left); But the injuries just keep piling up as Cardboard Orpik is stunned with a heavy slapshot to the ankle (right)

Cardboard Orpik brushed off his injury and gritted out the rest of practice. Goalie Brent Johnson gives his resurrected 2D teammate an encouraging pat.
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