What a surreal day for everyone involved in and around the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mellon Arena hosts it’s final regular season home game this evening. I realize that there will still be some playoff hockey played in the old barn, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this will be one of the final moments to relish the personality of the place.
I get it…the new building was a necessity. Mellon Arena just didn’t provide the same opportunities anymore; but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the place. Growing up here in town, it is all I have ever known.
I enjoyed countless moments with family, friends and loved ones there.
I saw the circus there.
I saw Sesame Street Live there.
I saw Mick Foley choke slammed off the top of a steel cage there.
I saw multiple concerts there including an amazing performance by U2 back in 2000 that capped a day in which I ate lunch at and toured Graceland, before making it home in time to see Bono and boys.
I also got to see Metallica on the “Black” tour back in 1991 at the Igloo. I found a way to parlay my section E stinkers into floor seats. The show was in the round and I was on the great Jason Newsted’s side of the stage. I worked my way up to the barrier and Newsted handed me a draft beer, which was the highlight of my then 16 years on earth.
And yes, I saw my first hockey game and hundreds more there over the years.
If Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were/are artists on the ice; Mellon Arena was their canvas. They used the sheet in that building to create the moments that most of us will never forget.
I will be taking some time over the next few weeks, possibly even after the playoffs end to share some of my personal Mellon memories… but until then, here is today’s edition of around the net.
Shelly Anderson gives us this great piece about Mellon Arena… as she says, we will have no idea when the official last game in the building will take place, unless there is a Cup being raised, so tonight will be special. There are some thoughts and comments about the building from current Penguins…including a retelling of the old “mouse in the shoe” bit!
Sticking with Shelly for a notebook… three players missed practice yesterday (Malkin, Gonchar and Kunitz), Staal will play in his 300th consecutive game tonight, Crosby gives everyone a scare, Fleury starts to tonight…
Here is a nice piece by Rob Rossi in which he catches up with “voice of the Penguins” Mike Lange. The two break down some of the unbelievable moments that Mario Lemieux gave us in the Igloo. He also tosses twelve other names that made the place special into the ring.
Here is something I grabbed from the Trib…
Top 10 games at Mellon Arena
Nov. 22, 1972 — The Penguins set an NHL record for fastest five goals when five players scored in a span of 2:07 in the third period, in which they scored a record seven goals. They beat St. Louis, 10-4.
April 26, 1975 — Ed Westfall’s backhander beat Gary Inness with 5:18 left, and the Penguins became the second team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead when they lost Game 7, 1-0, to the New York Islanders in the quarterfinals.
March 24, 1976 — Two Penguins’ fan favorites achieved club firsts in the same game, as Jean Pronovost scored his 50th goal and Pierre Larouche his 100th point in a 5-5 tie with the Boston Bruins.
Jan. 19, 1980 — In Wayne Gretzky’s first visit, the Penguins (144) and Edmonton (123) set arena records for most penalty minutes in a game, and D Russ Anderson set a team record with 51 PIM. The Oilers won, 5-2.
Nov. 27, 1991 — The Penguins commemorated the death of coach “Badger” Bob Johnson, who led them to their first Stanley Cup championship, with a candlelight ceremony before a game against New Jersey at Mellon Arena.
May 9, 1992 — Ron Francis scored an overtime goal to beat the New York Rangers, 5-4, in Game 4 to even the Patrick Division Final and start an 11-game win streak that would lead to the Penguins’ second Cup title.
May 26, 1992 — The Penguins trailed, 4-1, before Rick Tocchet and Mario Lemieux scored in a span of 59 seconds, Jaromir Jagr tied it with what Lemieux called “the greatest goal I’ve ever seen,” and Lemieux won the game with 12.6 seconds left for a 5-4 victory over Chicago in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
May 2, 1999 — Sidelined by a groin injury, Jaromir Jagr returned to score the game-tying goal in the third period and the winner 8:59 into overtime for a 3-2 victory over New Jersey in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
May 4, 2000 — Philadelphia’s Keith Primeau scored at 12:01 of the fifth overtime for a 2-1 victory over the Penguins – goalie Ron Tugnutt stopped 70 shots – in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2.
June 4, 2009 — Trailing defending champion Detroit, 2-1, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, Jordan Staal tied the score on a shorthanded goal at 8:35 of the second, and Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy scored for a 4-2 victory that turned the series and helped the Penguins win their third Cup championship.
Five Penguins who were cult heroes at the Igloo:
Bryan Watson — “Bugsy” the first
Bob Kelly — You couldn’t sink this “Battleship”
Ulf Samuelsson — Jack Lambert on skates
Darius Kasparaitis — Ironically, a Game 7 OT goal was his greatest hit
Gary Roberts — What he would do is bring the pain
Five opposing players who weren’t welcomed at the Igloo:
Barclay Plager — “Bar-clay!” “Bar-clay!”
Bobby Clarke — The Commonwealth Cold Sore
Wayne Gretzky — Great? Sure. Super? Hardly.
Dale Hunter — A Capital offender
Marian Hossa — See my Marian walking away …
Here is an outsiders view of the arena’s final game… this comes from the Detroit Free Press. The juicy tidbit contained within? That there are tentative plans to open the roof for one more event after the hockey season ends. I wasn’t aware of that…consider me excited about that news!
The Senators aren’t dwelling on the fact that they just might be meeting the Penguins for the third time in four years in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The teams have split their past two series… they have also split their four games during this season…
The Edmonton Oilers official site brings us the NHL Draft Lottery simulator! This is great… perfect for the mock drafter in you. Maybe you just want to see if your team has a chance at the top pick? My simulation gave the first pick in the 2010 NHL Draft to the Boston Bruins… the Toronto media’s collective heads just exploded.