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Your Mellon Arena memories (Take 1).

Thanks to everybody who submitted Mellon Arena memories. I’ll miss the Igloo, and it seems like I’m not alone in that sentiment. The first batch of your words:

JAY ISRAEL (Kane, PA)

When I was a kid and attended games at the arena with my dad in the 70s, he would always remind me of how his dad (my grandfather) was part of the crew that designed/built the wheels that ran on the tracks for the arena’s retractable roof.  To this day he still reminds me of that.  It’s too bad I never experienced an event where the roof was opened.

ROSSI: You may get that chance, Jay. There is a lot of talk of having a send-off concert with the dome opened. For that to happen the video board must be disassembled, and that will happen shortly after the final playoff game.

LORIE STEWART (Bell Vernon, PA)

During the 1991-92 season, I took my daughter to a game.  She was standing along the railing/steps where the players enter and exit the ice surface.  Jimmy Paek was leaving the ice after the pre-game skate and gave her a puck covered with the shaved ice.  She ran up the steps (I think our seats were in D-21 or D22 that night) and asked how she could keep the “snow” on the puck.  We weren’t able to keep the “snow” but we still have the puck!  Needless to say that was one hockey game neither one of us will forget.

Several years ago, we were watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, there question asked about the only Korean born hockey player to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup – and the answer was Jimmy Paek (the contestant had to “phone a friend” and that person was Mario).  She asked if that was the same person that gave her a puck when she was 11 years old – and obviously my answer was YES!  I guess the childhood memories make for lifelong hockey fans as we are both season ticket holders.

Thanks for allowing me to share my story of that one (of many) Mellon Memories we have.

ROSSI: I watched Game 6 of the 1991 Cup Final at the house of my neighborhood friends Rob and Chris Bartell. When Paek scored, I believe it was Rob who turned to me and said, “Well, now we know it’s the Penguins’ night.”

LESLIE W. MCINTIRE (Pittsburgh)

I remember that five-overtime game on May 4, 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers. My uncle and I never thought the game would go that long, but we started to realize we were witnessing some NHL history in the making when TV announcers starting talking during the intermissions in OT that this game was moving up the list of longest games in history; it would rank 3rd longest in history. I remember the Aramark vendors having no food or drinks left by the fourth OT intermission. I remember fans sleeping in their seats as time wore on. Even though Keith Primeau scored on Ron Tugnutt in that fifth overtime, I will remember the tremendous effort the Pens gave against a hated rival at the best venue in all of professional sports.

ROSSI: I attended that game with fellow WVU students Bryce Nalepa and Michael Pehanich. “Pehan” wore a replica black Flyers sweater, and I’m pretty sure neither Bryce nor I spoke a word to him on the drive back to Morgantown the next day. The funniest part to me, still, is that the game ended so late that my mom had to pick us up because T service has stopped at that early-morning hour. We had driven up from Morgantown to my parents’ house, left my car in the driveway and taken a bus into town. The game ended so late that we couldn’t get home, so I called my mom. When she drove up in her car, she looked at “Pehan” and said, “You want me to ride him home, too?” Mom hated the Flyer, still does..

2LT NICHOLAS A. HOTH (Pittsburgh)

I remember going to my first Pens game and first hockey game with my dad after moving up here from Florida in ‘89. I was young and I don’t remember who we played, but I remember loving the game and asking my dad if I could play. I remember playing at the Igloo in a high school tournament, walking around underneath the seats, waiting to step onto the ice; taking my 8-month-old boy to a Pens practice and watching him hold on to the rail and watch the pens intensely; the last four years as a season ticket holder, waiting for the day they came in the mail, splitting the games between my dad; taking my friends, wife and family to games. Watching the Pens play at the igloo on AFN overseas, seeing the Pens logo from thousands of miles away, brought fond memories of home during rough times. I will never forget these or any of my other memories. We will all miss that place and the excitement of coming around a corner in the city and seeing it on a snowy day in Pittsburgh.

ROSSI: A deserved “thank you,” Nicholas. The Igloo will be remembered, but your contributions to this country should never be forgotten.


JOHN ODZGA (Pittsburgh)

May 11, 1996: Game 5, Eastern Conference semifinals, Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers. Behind hat tricks from Jagr and Lemieux, the Pens clinch the series and advance to the Eastern Conference final. I have never heard Mellon Arena that loud. In fact, it was the loudest sporting event I have ever attended. I will never forget the chant of “Go Home Rangers” during the 3rd period with the game in hand.

ROSSI: I watched that game at the house of high-school friend Justin Gremba. Only a few of my high-school buds were die-hard puck heads, but everybody at this playoff party was chanting “Stanley Cup!” as the game wore on and it became obvious the Penguins were about to wipe out the Rangers. I’ll always remember Pat Sherman, a junior to my senior; he looked at me and asked, “Rock, have you seen Ronnie Francis at all in the third period?” Sigh.

SANDY EDMONDS DZAACK (Pittsburgh)

Although I’ve been a Pens season ticketholder for 14 years, my first and probably most cherished memory of Mellon Arena was my first-grade field trip, to see the circus at the then Civic Arena. All the sights and sounds definitely added to the excitement, but I remember sitting in my seat, looking up at the dome, and it seemed so huge, so far away, and almost felt like a starlit sky above me. I remember buying a blue, inflatable dog as a souvenir. In later years, my grandmother lived in an apartment in the Bigelow Building, and we would look out her window and be able to see inside the Arena when they would open the dome. I’ve attended many concerts and events in Mellon Arena, not to mention hundreds of hockey games. It will be a very bittersweet goodbye for me tonight.

ROSSI: I was reminded by contributing Trib columnist Joe Starkey how often I’ve taken for granted the unique design of the Igloo. That dome – that awesome, silver dome that I’m told can be identified from space if the sun catches it correctly. That dome is ours, as in it belongs to Pittsburghers. I know it’s not economically in the club’s best interest, but I agree with Max Talbot, who told me Wednesday that he hopes the Igloo stands forever. Consol Energy Center is going to be great from what I’ve seen; but this Igloo was something spectacular and special. Take your picture now, kids.

JIM PASQUERELL (Jefferson Hills, PA)

My son and I seeing Petr Sykora and Pascal Dupuis both get hat tricks on Dec. 11, 2008, and my daughter and I sitting on the glass next to the 1,000th person to join the season ticket waiting list.

ROSSI: The night Sykora and Dupuis turned tricks, I texted their agent. “Your boys just wrote my story, so thanks for that.”

ANGELA YATES (Irwin, PA)

My memories of Mellon Arena start from when I was very young, growing up watching the Pens. After we won the Stanley Cup last season, my sister and I had our very own little photo shoot in front of the arena when the players came back to clean their lockers. It was great fun! I made jeans for the playoffs as well that became a good luck charm, after each round, adding something new to them and we won! They are still hanging in my dad’s living room and have not moved yet.

ROSSI: I’ve heard of playoff beards. I’ve heard of not changing socks during the playoffs. I’ve heard of eating the same cereal for breakfast on the days of playoff games. I’ve never heard of self-made jeans. I’m almost scared to ask what was “added.”

JOHN BEIGHEL (Kennedy, PA)

My memories of the Civic Arena go back long before the Penguins played their first game.  Somewhere around 1964, my parents took me to see the Hornets play the Rochester Americans.  I remember that the Americans jumped out to a 5-0 or 5-1 lead going in to the 3rd period, and the Hornets came back and came up just short, 5-4.  The crowd wasn’t all that large, even compared to the number of seats back then, but they were really into the game.  I don’t remember much more about the game, but I do remember the action and the excitement and from that day, I was hooked.
While most Pittsburghers have experienced the Finals and seen the home team win three Cups, I have seen four.  I saw a lot of the ’67 playoffs when the Hornets won the Calder Cup.  It was tough to get to the weekday games because they were school nights, but I got to see a couple.
The first year the Pens made the playoffs, I was in college in St. Louis. I saw all of the Pens games there during the year.  The first round of the playoffs against Oakland were held during my spring break, so I was able to come home and see both games at the Igloo.  It was an exciting time for Pittsburgh hockey.  That was one of the few times I was able to watch Michel Briere play. He was a wonderful and exciting player.  He could have been one of the best players of his time if he had survived.
I have seen a lot of hockey in a lot of buildings around the league over the years.  Although there were a few of the older buildings, like the old Maple Leaf Gardens, that had a great feel to them; the Igloo has always had an intimacy with the players on the ice.  Maybe it was because of the angle of the roof coming up on all sides, or the relatively short distance from the ice to the back wall.  But I can say that the Civic/Mellon Arena has always been a great place to watch a hockey game.

ROSSI: Let nobody forget that the Igloo first belonged to the Hornets; but, yes, the old Civic Arena is a great place to watch a hockey game. Marc-Andre Fleury said it best when describing seats that go up to the roof. I still find it unbelievable that I lean my arm on the roof while talking to somebody in the press box.

THOMAS ROMAN (Pittsburgh)

I had partial season tickets for the 1975 or 1976 seasons. Sly Apps. Battleship Kelly. Dave Burrows. Let’s go Pronovost. I rode in on the trolley from the South Hills.

Anyway, this story starts with a game that the Pens lost, due in large part to what most felt was an awful penalty call (or was it a non-call?). So after the game, we walk down to the trolley stop located in front of the hotel that was down-hill from the Igloo. The trolley stop was located in between traffic lanes, on an elevated concrete walkway. A car loses control and crashes into the concrete trolley stop barrier. It’s a pretty bad crash and the driver is obviously hurt bad. A man in the lobby of the hotel dashes across the street, opens the door to the car, and starts to tend to the driver. It’s down-right heroic… and it’s the ref of the hockey game.

When the paramedics arrive, and the man is heading back to the hotel, everyone in the vicinity BOOED him. Classic!

ROSSI: I’m simultaneously horrified and… fascinated.

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Bob Parker says:

    I remember going to my first Penguins game in 1970. I was living my myself and struggling with being on my own. Sitting in the general admissions section, I didn’t understand the rules, but what excitment the fans would generate in those days. I went back to my apartment with sore hands and strained voice. I was hooked on Penguins hockey. A couple years later I was able to afford season tickets for two years. What great games those teams played, especially with the players not wearing helmets, you could really identify them. Kept me going until I met my wife. Our second date was to a Penguins game and she was so exicited as it was her first hockey game. Couldn’t help but feel, this young lady is special if she likes Penguins hockey. And indeed she was and is. Thanks to all the Penguins wherever they may be.

  2. David Niccolai says:

    Way back I remember going to a Hornets game with my cousin, a Bruno Sammartino wrestling event, the Harlem Globetrotters after Christmas, and many, many concerts including the Allman Bros. when they opened the roof after intermission to Southbound. Our seats were up against the roof near the split when the roof opened (awesome). Throw in taking the kids to a few Ice Capades and the circus and that brings us to the Penguins. Being a high school hockey nut, I remember huddling around the radio listening to the heartbreak series against the Islanders in 75. I attended many game after that series. So many so that my youngest fell in love with the sport and played high school hockey. The memories are innumerable but include the first night the Pens played after trading for Ulf and Francis, Mario’s last home playoff game against the Flyers before his first retirement (Joey Mullen handed my son his stick as he left the ice from warm-ups), the night they retired Mario’s number (my son got the puck used the 1st period from the little old codger who opened the door for the Pens to leave the ice), Jagr beating the Devils on one leg in the playoffs and a most humbling loss to the upstart Sharks 10-8 (the boy loved the Sharks and it cost me a Primanti Bros. sandwich). Now that I’ve relocated to Indiana I miss the Igloo. But the memories will last my son and I forever. Can’t wait for a road trip to see the new place………..

  3. Frank Yantek says:

    October 11, 1967, the first Pens game. I was 10 and my dad said we were going to a hockey game at the Civic Arena. Our neighbor gave him tickets that morning. We had no idea about hockey exept they used sticks and pucks. We were in the 6th row behind the goal. The scoreboard was used for basketball and had lights for 4 periods. At the end of the third period, everyone got up an left. All the sports we knew had nine innings or four periods. We finally figured out that three 20 minute periods was the same as four 15 minute periods and the game was over. The Pens lost, but I was hooked.

    Two years ago my wife gave me the Pens fantasy camp at the arena for Christmas. Three days with former Pens and a 30 minute conversation about wine with Mario while watching the Pens practice was the best Christmas gift ever.

    I will miss the arena, but I can’t wait to be at the first game at Consol

    Frank Yantek

  4. Regis Cmar says:

    I have memories back from my high school days going to the 1st Penguins game against Montreal, Oct. 11, 1967. They actually started slowly in building a fan base, as that 1st game didn’t sell out and it was easy to get down to the Arena a couple of days before and buy great seats cheaply, and overall the Arena didn’t sell out much in those early days. For those 1st 5 years there, as a high school and CMU college student, many weekends or nights (maybe 50 or so) included a Penguins night out as a break from studying, and they basically lost or tied most of those. Favorite flashbacks include Michel Briere and Jean Pronovost beating goalies coming out to challenge them on breakaways, “Fighting” Al Smith in goal, “Gunner” Keith McCreary (“I can score 25 goals in this league”), Glen Sather scoring when a Red Wing passed the puck into his own empty net, Syl Apps coming over in a trade and leading us to offensive respectability, Ken Dryden debuting in a Sunday night game (April 1, 1971?), with maybe 7000 people there, and basically looking awkward while effectively beating us 5-1, TIm Horton “coming back home” to Pittsburgh and playing for us, etc…..

    Then I moved away to find my life’s work, but I still came back and experienced PIttsburgh when I could, with the Civic Arena being a big part of these memories.

    My brother and my youngest son graduated from college (Pitt) there, and there were a number of other Arena events that I can’t even count or remember well anymore.

    And then we get to the memories of coming back to seeing Mario, Jagr, and the Cup and playoff years we’ve enjoyed over the last 20 years, which most people here do remember quite well, and books and tapes record for posterity.

    The CIvic Arena is a civic treasure, and maybe even a national treasure. Even when there were “losses” there, you “won” by showing up and experiencing the atmosphere and the people. Coming back from another city (Dayton, OH) now, it’s always a great legacy to come back to, and I hope that it can be preserved and memorialized somehow. Like the ’60, ’71, & ’79 Pirates, Bob Prince, Rege Cordic, the Super Steelers in the years since the ’70′s, Myron Cope, Mike Lange, and Clemente, the Civic Arena and the Pens were a great comfort to come back to and experience and remember in the place I know deeply as home, Pittsburgh.

  5. Fred Bolch says:

    Of course all my favorite memories are of Penguins games, although I’ve been there often for concerts as well. Three favorite memories stood above the rest for me, all having to do with Mario, in reverse order of significance:

    3) Mario’s 7-point game, including 5 goals, against Gretzky’s St. Louis Blues in the 95-96 season (an 8-4 win on March 26, 1996). Gretzky had a single assist in that game while Lemieux was totally dominating. To the many fans in attendance that night, this was just a clear demonstration of what we already knew: that SuperMario was superior to the Great Gretzky!

    2) Mario’s final goal on home ice before his first retirement in April 1997. I didn’t have season tickets that year, but managed to get a full slate of playoff tickets in Section F12 (south, double-attack end) anyway – it was a lot easier then – and, after Mario’s announced retirement, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to see him one last time. I took my dad to the only two home playoff games we had that year. We were playing the Flyers in Game 4 of a first round series, and the Pens were so far out of it, down three games to none, that we knew this would be Mario’s last performance before the home crowd (even with a 4-1 win that day, we knew they’d get closed out by a far superior Flyers team in Philly in Game 5). Although the Penguins were winning this game and appeared to have spared themselves the embarrassment of being shut out in the series, Mario had been held scoreless for the whole game. But, about mid-way thru the third period a MAR-I-O chant started rising. Unlike most chants, this one never subsided; rather it kept rising and rising in volume and intensity, with fans rising to their feet, whether Mario was out on the ice or taking a breather on the bench. We all simply wanted so much to see Mario go out, not with a whimper, but with one last glorious bang of a goal. And, damn, if he didn’t do just that. Time was running out on the clock when, to the thunderous roar of the crowd, he jumped off the bench and over the boards with only about 10 seconds to go in the game. He took a breakout pass, split two defensemen, swooped around the second one, and moved in on Garth Snow, the Flyers’ goalie at the time, beating him like a rented mule! From where we were sitting, that play came right at us and, though we didn’t think it was possible, the volume in the arena elevated yet another order of magnitude. I remember quite literally almost passing out with delirium. That goal was not a “gimme” intended to artificially inflate Mario’s legend or his stats, a la an empty netter or a lame save attempt on a breakaway; in fact, it was recently assessed, in at least one poll, as his 4th greatest goal ever.

    1) Mario’s return from retirement on December 27, 2000. Too long a story to elaborate on all the reasons that made this memory so great; the fact that he scored an assist on the first shift of his comeback and a goal later in that 5-0 win over Toronto was almost incidental. But, suffice it to say that it was only through sheer happenstance that I got to witness the spectacle of his return from a seat directly behind the Penguins’ bench, indeed, at times during the game, within a literal arm’s length of Mario Lemieux himself (were it not for the glass that separates the players’ bench from the fans). I’d gotten the tickets for this game long before Lemieux even hinted at, much less announced, an attempt to return to the ice as an owner/player. Sometime in the late summer of that year, before the Penguins’ 2000-01 season had even commenced, my friend, Richard, had asked me, and a couple other mutual friends to join him in a charity bid for 4 tickets to a Penguins game that was scheduled to be played the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I’d totally forgotten about the auction in late October when he called to give me the news that we’d won the auction. The “bad” news was that the auction-selected game had been moved to December 27th! Needless to say, we were all shocked and excited when the first hints of Mario’s return surfaced and the official announcement came on December 8th. Initially, Mario said he’d try to be back on the ice by late December or early 2001. My friend Vanessa and I scrambled to get second-half season tickets in order to ensure that we’d get to see Mario’s return. Vanessa had often commented to me that she’d never been privileged to see Mario play in person, so this was to be a great second chance for her. As it seemed more and more possible that Mario’s return attempt would commence before the end of the year, we wondered aloud if we could possibly be so lucky as to have the magic tickets for his return and when the official date was set, it became a flurry of phone calls among the 4 of us to celebrate our great fortune. Little did we know at the time just where our seats would be! As we handed them to the usher that evening, he guided us closer and closer to the Penguins’ bench as our faces lit up with excitement. There we were right behind the bench for the game of a lifetime (well worth the $50 we had reluctantly paid for each ticket). The location was so perfect that the moment of Mario’s initial face-off captured both him and me (standing with arms stretched to the heavens behind the Penguins’ bench) on the official Mario Comeback Poster published by the NHL, the photo for which was shot from the opposite side of the arena (I still have my own photos taken from MY position, including one of that same opening face-off). I didn’t even know about that poster until some British friends spotted me, and pointed me out on it, upon the occasion of their annual overseas visit to see the Penguins later that season (that’s a whole ‘nuther part of the story that further plays into this great memory).

    By the way, my British friends came twice this season, once just for the opening game and Stanley Cup banner raising in October (yes, they flew in from England for just one weekend, just the one game), and they were here again this past week to see the final 3 regular season games at the Igloo.

  6. Geno says:

    I had a lot of great memories of the igloo, but the one that has to top them all is when I lived in Oregon. I phoned my friend back in Indiana PA and told him we should get tickets to a game while I was home during Christmas break. We bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale, low and behold it turns out that Mario decides to make his comeback. And it turns out we have the tickets for his return game! And, while we were having dinner at the top of the triangle – so was Mario and his entourage of about 20 people. LETS GO PENS!!!

  7. Joe Petitto says:

    I purposed to my wife (Janet) of 22 years at a Penguins game. It was Valentine’s Day 1988, and the Pens were playing the Canucks. I moved to Washington D.C. and came up to take my wife out for Valentine’s Day. We have been talking about getting married but I was always getting cold feet. I could tell that she was PO when I did not mention anything about getting married at dinner. Right before we got to the game, she read me the riot act. To make a long story short, I asked my wife to marry me between the first and second period of the game. After she said yes, I just sat there in a coma for the rest of game. All I could remember was the finial score, Canucks 4, Pens 4. My second best memory of Mellon Area was the the first game I went too, it was 1967 and I have been a Penguins fans ever since. Maybe you guys at the Trib can help me get the two seats my wife and I were seating in when I popped the question. Seats 15, 16 section D.

  8. Bob Walter (formly of Plum, now Philadelphia) says:

    My memories of the Civic Arena are many; too many to mention here. From concerts to the circus. But my fondest memories are of the Penguin games I attended over the years. Of all of them, the following three stand out the most.

    The first game was the first Pens game I ever want to. It was in March of 1975; the Pens vs. the Capitals. Now this was back when Washington was only a second year team. Thus, they weren’t very good. The Pens won the game by a score of 12-1. To this day its still a team record. Although, I believe they tied this record years later.

    The second game had to be about October 1986. Mario scored four goals on the way to an 8-3 stomping of the Maple Leafs. I can still remember the crowd chanting “Chili! Chili! Chili!” Wendy’s had a promotion back then if the Pens scored more then seven goals at a home game, that nights crowd could get a free bowl of chili with their ticket stub. I don’t think I took advantage of that option.

    The third game was the last one I ever attended at the Arena. It had to be in 1991 or 1992. I know it was during their Stanley Cup years. Mario scored with 5 seconds left in the third period to tie the game against the Islanders. The crowd went crazy. Everything from the chanting taunt of “Billllly” for the NY goaltender, to littering the ice with plastic cups right after the goal was scored. Alas, the game ended in a 5-5 tie. One of the morbid parts of the game occurred in the second period when one of the Islanders had his jaw broken by a flying puck. I still remember the whole crowd saying “EWWWWW!!!” as they turned him over on to the stretcher.

    Its been a long time since that place has seen my shadow. Aaah, what memories!

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