Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/20/11
Growing up in the small Mennonite community of Winkler, Manitoba, roughly 15 miles north of the border with North Dakota, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner found ways to remain entertained outside of hockey during the long winter months. He watched the Simpsons. Three or four times a day. "I first started watching with my mom," Penner said. "That was the first kind of PG-cartoon I could watch coming from a really Christian town." He was also known over the summer for using a relevant Simpsons quote when asked by a reporter whether fans' criticism of his play had gotten to him. "The one thing I can say, and I don't know if you watch The Simpsons,' the episode with Darryl Strawberry, when they start (chanting) Darryl, Darryl,' and there's a tear in his eye I used to laugh at that, and now I don't," Penner said in July. Want to get on a sports blogger's good side? Seamlessly refer to Bart and Lisa's heckling of Darryl Strawberry in the memorable Homer at the Bat, the 1992 episode in which Mr. Burns recruits a Springfield Nuclear Plant softball team stocked with the likes of Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Roger Clemens. Like many enduring episodes, it had an effect that was felt deeper than the sum of its lines. "I've always thought of that because I've been on both sides of it," Penner said. "I was a late bloomer, so I didn't get to the Darryl Strawberry point until I was 23, 24. When you're a spectator, you always see athletes as people different than yourself, and that always resonated with me, that one episode." Looking to boost his production under Darryl Sutter, announced Tuesday as Los Angeles' head coach after Terry Murray was dismissed last week, Penner has put together a string of quality efforts in December, if not consistent production, after returning from a hand injury that had sidelined him for nine games. These efforts are slowly translating once again into points he has two goals and three assists in the eight games since his return as he and the rest of the Kings look to snap out of their goal scoring funk and improve upon an NHL-worst offensive unit. Perhaps he'll need to take Homer's advice from Whacking Day as a message to get the team's offensive pulse beating again. "You just put away that rage and put it into a little ball and unleash it at the appropriate time," Penner quoted from memory. "Like the day daddy hit the referee with the whiskey bottle! Remember that, when daddy hit the referee?" After consideration to both sides, maybe quoting The Simpsons in an NHL locker room isn't the easiest way to get through to your teammates. "It depends on your audience. A lot of these guys I think aren't as big of a Simpsons fan as I am," Penner said. "I remember even a couple of years back with a buddy Zenon Konopka, who plays for the Ottawa Senators now we would go nonstop all day. Maybe I've gotten away from it a bit, but it's always in the back of my mind." Though Family Guy has diverted some of his attention, there will always be room for Springfield, Illi- um, Oh-, no, uh- well, we're not exactly sure which state Springfield is in. "Whenever they're on, I'll watch them. I'm a purist. The older the episode, the more I'll enjoy them." Dustin Penner's favorite Simpsons lines Marge: Homer, the plant called and said that if you don't come in tomorrow, don't bother coming in Monday. Homer: Woo hoo! Four day weekend! Homer: Default? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language! De-fault! De-fault! De-fault! Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try."
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