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By Cy Clark
I recently attended an autograph signing at the Mills Mall and I talked to Chris Kunitz and Zbynek Michalek. Let me tell you, two class guys. I also met them at the practice that I was invited to by Coach Dan Bylsma – that guy is a saint, as well as the majority of the players who I got to talk with… just a super bunch of guys. But, I want to go back to some of the former players and also first meetings with some of the current players.
Tom Barrasso – Yes, the same goalie who no one seems to have luck in getting an autograph from. During the second cup run in 1992, I remember telling two guys I was there with that I was going to get his autograph and they laughed and said we’ll bet you 50 bucks he walks right by. Well, I took my chances and, as you penguins’ fans are aware where he used to park, I was down the ramp, walked up to him and politely asked him. Not only did I get the autograph, we talked briefly and I was 50 bucks richer.
Brent Johnson – Ross Park Mall at an autograph signing. This guy is probably one of, if not the, nicest Penguins’ player ever. I think the pic tells the story here. We had some good laughs that evening at the Ross Park Mall!
Bryan Watson – My first autograph. He was just crazy, he kept asking if my name was Cy Young, Cy Denneny, and laughing. Then he asked if I knew who they were, and when I told him, his look was priceless. Then he starts asking if I had seen them play? The guy was a trip, but man, the battle scars he had.
Gary Rissling – The first meeting with him was a “picture day with a Penguin” before a game at the Civic Arena. I remember walking up shaking hands and him asking me to put them up. The next thing you know he tells my buddies waiting for me to join the fun, so all three of us got in the pic. I told him he missed his calling and should have gone to Hollywood with those commercials he often did. He looked at me and said, “This face? A face only a mother could love!” Fantastic guy!
Eddie Shack – Now even though I was a little ticked that he came at the expense of Rene Robert, there he was sitting three rows in front of me at a hockey game. He was a healthy scratch. Another one of those guys who was just a crazy individual, and he had us laughing while he signed programs. I never saw a nose that big in my life… until I met Larry Zeidel in Philly that is!
Ulf Samuelsson – I was with a buddy and his son, we were getting autographs under the ramp at the arena. Ulf was his favorite player, but as some young kids freeze up, he wasn’t saying anything. So Ulf says “you don’t talk to me, I’m gonna throw you outside.” We told him to go ahead, and that sure changed his tune — ended up getting tickets for the next game as well. Sometimes shyness pays off.
Bill Guerin – Anyone remember the Stanley Cup Parade? He saw my sign, “Guerin Up For Next Year”, jumped off the truck, ran over, and we hugged, did high five’s shook hands and stopped for a pic that his wife took with the sign. Then we proceeded to act like little kids and did the “NWO Point” at each other. His time as a player was too short here. One of the nicest guys you ever want to meet.
Deryk Engelland – After last year’s playoff I was able to get a pic with him and the “Glass Jaw” jersey. The smile on his face was priceless. My friend Nicole said that he looked happier to get a pic with that jersey than I did. Little did everyone know at the time that’s when I starting to spit blood, and just about knew the inevitable…
Last but not least, Mario Lemieux – The only time I have met him was at his first appearance at a local Gimbel’s store in Monroeville Mall during the summer of 1984. I was with my future wife; we were just dating then, my nephews, and some friends of ours at the event. We were in line waiting to get his autograph and I’ll never forget what I said to him, “So, you’re gonna be on a helicopter line, no wings!” He looked and smiled, but he was so shy. My wife looks at me and says “He did not understand what you said.” But we hung out got our pic with him. I found the friend who took the pic a few days ago and she is searching for it. I remember watching him and thinking, wow, here’s this young kid and he’s gonna save Penguins’ hockey. Oh man did he, he made a lot of my dreams come true!