Mellon Memories: From the 'Burgh to Alaska

I move from the 'Burgh to come to Alaska this year to work. I try to explain to people what it is like to attend a Pittsburgh Penguins game, to listen and watch the pregame intro, to sing along with Jeff Jimmerson to the National Anthem, to hear the Lets Go Pens chant at the drop of the puck, to hear the Hey Song played after Malkin takes Cam Ward’s liquor license, to hear the crowd scream HEY when the entertainment staff shut offs the song at the right time, to hear John Barbaro say MAAAAAAAAAALKINNNNNN, to hear the goalie chants when we chase Marty Brouduer, to hear Song 2 after we win and to chant LETS GO PENS as we walk down the ramp after the game and talk shit to all of the visiting fans as you walk outside to listen to the saxophone and the bucket drums.

I am only 24 years old so I do not have as much experience as some people but my experience has left such an impression on me that it can never be taken away, not when they move to the new arena and not when they knock the Igloo down. There is no words I use to describe the walk up the walkway for a playoff game and walking up to wait to get into the arena and see thousands of people waiting in the lawn to watch the game on a big screen. When you go to a game you forget about everything that is going on. You could have a terrible day and for those three hours nothing could keep your eyes from fixating on Malkin, Crosby, Fluery and company from playing hockey. It is an escape, and the Igloo was your home away from home.

I only have a few stories to share but they are some of the top moments of my life. The one was this year’s Stanley Cup Finals for game three. My buddy was talking about getting to a game and I finally convinced him that going to a Stanley Cup Final game was like none other. He finally agreed to come to the game and we made the voyage to the Igloo for his first game in like 12 years. We made the usual stops and some establishments and made our way to the arena right as the gates opened. As we walked to our seats my buddy was in awe of the place. We walked around and looked at some things and then got to our season with about 30 minutes till game time and got settled. As the players left the ice before the intro my buddy turns to me and goes “This is AWESOME and the game hasn’t even started yet.” The rest of time all he could talk about was how amazing the place was and how great the atmosphere was. My buddy was transformed from the moment he walked into the place. When Sarge scored from way down town on the power play and the place erupted, I just turned to my buddy and we gave each other a high five and the look on his face was worth the price of the ticket.

The best moment of being in Mellon Arena would have been the second round of the playoffs last year when we hosted the New York Rangers. I was in attendance with my brother for the first game of the series. It was the first white out game of the playoffs that year and the place was buzzing. The Rangers, however, got out to a 3-0 lead in the second and when Sean Avery scored the third goal I just remember thinking to myself “what the hell is going on?” As the Penguins started to mount a comeback Ruutu scored a garbage goal and then like three seconds later Dupuis scored and I will never forget jumping out of my seat and looking to my brother and he said to me “what the hell just happened” to which I had to tell him we just scored again because he was still slapping hands from the Ruutu goal. Then Hossa scored and then Syko scored. I have never heard a place as loud as when Petr Sykora scored. One of my buddies was sitting three seats down from me and I gave him a high five and totally elbowed a girl in the head while doing it and it didn’t even matter. She didn’t miss a beat celebrating what was the best comeback I had ever seen live. The arena may be old but it gets as loud as any place on the planet and chills ran down my spine when I was watching everyone jump up and down while watching Petr jump into Geno’s arms like a little kid. The win set the tone for the playoff run and it was the best game I had ever been to in any sport.

The times just begin with those types of stories. Games where we play the Devils and Marty gets pulled to Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarty chants, beating the Flyers 7-1 and opening up the second period with a Go Home Flyers chant, clinching playoff series, Jeff Jimmerson just blowing up the National Anthem, whiteouts with the rally towels, meeting amazing people who sit beside you because they are just amazing people, hearing the three stars of the game, the cotton candy man, cotton eyed Joe, meeting Stan Savern while he walks around at games, and just being the part of something special. I was at game seven in Detroit when the Penguins brought home the Stanley Cup. It was a really surreal moment. Both upper ends were filled with Penguin fans and when Max Talbot scored his goals it was nothing but LETS GO PENS chants all through the place. The look on the face of the people who were Wings fans sitting behind me was priceless. Pittburgh fans are like no other. Riding up and down from Detroit all we saw were Penguin fans and each of us beeped at each other as we passed. What a feeling. What a time. What a city. Sure the players won the game, but each and every one of us feel a part of it. It is a part of our lives.

Like I said, the arena is old, but it has character. She signifies what Pittsburgh is all about. Maybe it isn’t the prettiest place, maybe it’s not the most high tech place, but it is home. A home that we love and respect. The seats are cramped, the roof can’t open anymore, we have added sections to where the top row can touch the roof, the homemade signs that are hanging all around the arena and it is the only home that we have ever had. The place shakes when it gets loud. The sounds vibrate off the walls of the Igloo. It is not the Mellon Arena. It is the Igloo. A place where the Penguins live. Our home away from home. On a snowy day it really resembles an Igloo which is just so fitting. You walk in and you just feel that it is game day. You take a look at the ice when you walk in right as the gates open and it’s just a surreal feeling. You hear the music playing and you hear everyone gearing up for the big game. It’s a Great Day for Hockey is what Pittsburgh is all about. Blue Collar, work hard and do what you have to do to win. This is our town. I, just like all of you, will never forget this place in my entire life and this place will always be home.

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