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.