Wow, it really hasn’t sunk in yet that Thursday night’s game Vs. the Islanders really was the last regular season game to be played at Mellon Arena. I attended my first hockey game there in 1971 and saw the Pens play the Boston Bruins with Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the rest of that era’s legendary Bruins. I fell in love with hockey that night and have been hooked ever since. I remember going to a game as a kid and seeing Jean Pronovost score a hat trick (First one I had ever seen), and he became my favorite player. I remember the glory days of the mid 70′s coming so close a couple of times as well as the down years of the early 80′s which led to us being able to draft Mario. There were times in that building when you felt the players knew each fan by name because there were so few of us. We would buy the $5.00 D section seats, and then, after the first period, we were allowed to sit anywhere we wanted. No need to go into the Mario and post Mario history as I’m pretty sure everyone here knows it by heart.
I saw a lot of other events at the Igloo over the years even got to see the roof open twice, once for a Pittsburgh Condors basketball game in the 70′s and once at a Jimmy Buffet show in the 80′s (I think the only reason I was there was because they said the roof would be opened during the show). I saw the circus there numerous times as a child as well as every year my dad taking us to see the Harlem Globetrotters right around Christmas. I got to see a John Wooden coached UCLA squad completely dismantle Pitt in a holiday tournament game that had been set up for Duquesne to play UCLA, but Pitt upset the Dukes in the first game. I can’t even count the number of concerts I saw in the place nor the number of college and high school basketball games. I saw tiny 15th seed Coppin St. upset #2 seed South Carolina during the first round of the NCAA tournament and probably a pro wrestling event or two.
Nothing though can compare to seeing Penguin hockey though. Whether it was in the midst of another 10 game losing streak with only 3,000 other fans in the seats back in the early 80′s or during the Stanley Cup finals when the noise was so loud you couldn’t even hear the voices in your own head, there was just somethng magical about being at a hockey game there. Just like everyone else, I can’t wait until the first time I walk into the brand spankin’ new Consol Energy Arena (And I can guarantee you it won’t be for that freakin’ Lady Gaga show), but somewhere in the childlike back of my mind, I’ll be missing the old barn.
Here’s some photos I took at the last game including yours truly getting to meet his idol Jean Pronovost himself and getting him to sign not only an old photo card I had of him but my 1974 Jean Pronovost Pens jersey!!!!!