I walked into Mellon Arena for the first time on March 14, 2009. I had been a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fan for several years at that time, but my interest in Sidney Crosby when he was drafted piqued my interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins. On that date in March one year and one month ago, I was finally going to Pittsburgh. I had seen the Big Penguins play live once before when I went to Madison Square Garden in January 2006. However, I knew the Igloo would be a special place.
My excitement poured over when I looked at the rink from the entrance to my seats; section B31 row A. The building was everything I had seen on TV, but being there in person; I was really drawn in by the unique seating arrangement and the great view of the ice from my seat. Maybe at that time I was grateful to not be in obstructed view seating in section E somewhere.
When I was in my seats during the game, I really loved how my seat allowed me to feel close to the ice even though I wasn’t in section A. I also loved how the entire crowd, 17,000 strong; was very passionate about the game and eager to start chants. This was not something I was used to in my (much smaller) home arena. Yes some people do cheer and get excited in Wilkes-Barre, but not all. It was great to hear tens of thousands of people chanting “Let’s Go Pens”.
I also remember the first time I heard Jeff Jimmerson perform the national anthems. I had heard a lot about him on Facebook and You Tube. When he sang, I got chills. It amazed me that he was a local celebrity in Pittsburgh. People gave him standing ovations when he entered the ice. Everyone who saw him wanted a picture and the chance to talk with him. I had the fortune of meeting him on my second trip here this year, and let me just say he is one of the nicest guys around.
I was excited to do everything on that first trip to Mellon Arena. As cramped as Pens Station was, I wanted to shop there. I wanted to get my picture taken by the wall murals of players outside and inside the arena. Although I was not from Pittsburgh, I marveled at the walls of high school hockey jerseys adorning the stretch of hallway on the Igloo’s concourse. The Igloo was my candy store and I felt like a little kid who wanted to get lost in all its wonders.
There were also many wonderful people I saw and talked to during my trips there. Two of those were friends of mine who I had seldom or never seen in person; mostly engaging with them through Facebook conversations. It was a thrill to meet them at the Igloo and pose for pictures before games against Ottawa and Boston. I also saw Dan the Jersey Man in action and just when I thought my collection of jerseys was insane, this is a guy who wears six jerseys to a game and changes them throughout. I wore a WBS Penguins jersey and one of the food service employees was asking me questions about where I was from and even where I had gotten my tote bag.
One of my greatest Mellon Arena memories, though, is that the Empty Netters guys decided that they wanted to be a part of my first trip to the Igloo. I read their blog a few weeks after my journey and apparently, they loved my WBS Penguins Tyler Kennedy jersey so much they photographed it during their "jersey hunt". Pics or it didn't happen, you say? Well...the proof is in the pudding:
In all of the Igloo's glory, it had some features I wasn't too fond of. Do you really like sitting next to someone and having no elbow room to the point where even sending a text message becomes a challenge? Do you really love the cramped concourses and having so much trouble getting around that you make it back to your seat after the next period has started? I don’t. However, when I heard someone call the Igloo "a dump"; I was upset and I had only been there twice. It may have its inconveniences, but in my mind, it is not a dump and should never be thought of as one.
Although I have only been to the Igloo four times, it holds many memories for me. I don't doubt that the Consol Energy Center will be a great building. It will have a more modern seating arrangement to give all fans great views of the game, wider concourses, and interactive displays. However, I don’t think it can ever replace the Igloo. The Mellon Arena has character and is a more intimate place to watch a game. Furthermore, the memories I made will never be forgotten. You cannot put a multi-million price tag on things like that.
As my text message to the scoreboard for the March 28th game against the Maple Leafs said:
Farewell Mellon Arena. Thanks for the Memories.