Our friend George Von Benko has been around the Pittsburgh Penguins since the earliest days of the franchise and has had the opportunity to see it all. So when he showed up at the skate prior to the final game at Mellon Arena, he received somewhat of a heroes welcome from the players that had returned for the event. Though George is a seasoned pro these days, many of the players remembered “Little Georgie” and were thrilled to see him.
Of all of the players he was able to catch up with, George was thrilled to see Ron Stackhouse.
He wasn’t sure if Stackhouse would actually show up for the event, as his time patrolling the Penguins blue line wasn’t exactly pleasant. One look at the stat sheet might have you asking why? How could he have not enjoyed his time while posting impressive offensive numbers in almost every season as a Penguin? Well, that had a lot to do with the fact that the fans of the mid to late 1970’s just couldn’t get their heads around the fact that a 6’3″, 185 lb defenseman played a finesse style.
They fully expected to see Stackhouse playing like Chris Pronger or something. They wanted blood and guts on every shift and when he didn’t deliver the physical goods, they booed and insulted him mercilessly. George shared a couple of stories with me in which the arena faithful would hurl obscenities at Stackhouse, substituting horrible words in his name, and just making him feel unwelcome. Unfortunately it all led to Stackhouse requesting a trade on several occasions, but the staff knew what they had and held onto him.
Stackhouse finished his career as a Penguin, playing his final season in 1981-82. Over the years many have realized that he would be the perfect fit for today’s NHL and have grown to appreciate him in hindsight.
The damage had been done though and Stackhouse hasn’t come around very often, if at all, and probably didn’t realize that he was now a revered member of the Penguins past, which is why the ovation he received last Thursday was just plain awesome!
Here is a three and a half minute conversation that George had with Stackhouse prior to last week’s regular season finale at Mellon Arena…
** George Von Benko is in his third stint as color commentator for the Duquesne Dukes Basketball program and hosts a weekly sports talk show on WMBS Radio in Uniontown (AM 590) that airs every Saturday from 10:15 to 12:00 noon.