Bill Cowher must decide: Pittsburgh for life or Caniac Nation?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher is a ubiquitous local celebrity in Raleigh, as his lantern jaw has popped up everywhere from local supermarkets to the putting greens.

Tonight, like Ric Flair and Elizabeth Dole before him, Cowher's scheduled to sound the ceremonial "warning siren" before Game 3 between the Boston Bruins and the hometown Carolina Hurricanes. It'll be the second time Cowher's had the honor.

The former Steel City icon did an interview with 850 The Buzz in Raleigh today in which he discussed his hockey credentials as a fan in Pittsburgh:

Q. You were in Pittsburgh for a long time. Did you get into the Pens when your tenures coincided?

"I did. As a matter of fact, I grew up in Pittsburgh as well, so I got into the Pens very early ... actually when it was the Pittsburgh Hornets, before they were the Pens. I had followed hockey from an early age, and certainly I was able to go back there in '92 as the head coach [and] they had a team that was pretty good: They had Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr(notes) and some guy named Ron Francis. It was a very good team, and I was fortunate to see some of the Cups come through there. It was exciting, it really was. And now I'm watching these two playoff series thinking these two hopefully will be on a collision course."

The Pittsburgh Penguins have some catching up to do, but it's not out of the question that they and the Hurricanes could meet for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. And if they did ... well, where are Cowher's loyalties?

Consider that he's met with the Hurricanes coaches (even if he didn't understand what they were talking about), follows the team on television and told the station today that he respects the way warring factions of college basketball fans can come together under the same arena roof to cheer on a hockey team.

"When you walk into that arena, there's a sense of pride. We had a little bit of that in Pittsburgh," he said, also adding:

Q. You can't be too happy right now with what's going on between the Caps and the Pens and Ovechkin getting the better of Sidney Crosby(notes) right now; even though they put on a game for the ages the other night, going two hat tricks.

"What a great game. I mean, it really was. But you know what? I gotta be honest with you: I am just totally involved right now in watching the Hurricanes. I thought the game they played, after the first five or 10 minutes, that that was the best sustained effort that they have had so far in this playoff series. Paul Maurice and Ronnie ... that was a big win. They needed some confidence. They hadn't beaten Boston all year. Now, to be able to come back home 1-1, hopefully our fans get behind them and they can win this game tonight."

"Our fans?" Sure sounds like a convert, although we'd love for someone to get him on the record should the teams meet in the conference finals.

If Cowher's a Caniac, there are really only three opitons of vengeance for Pittsburgh.

1. Mock Jake Delhomme. (OK ... continue to mock Jake Delhomme.)

2. Kidnap the Hurricanes mascot, and drop him off bound and gagged in front of Primanti Bros.

3. Wine and dine Dean Smith until he's wearing a Max Talbot(notes) jersey.

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