So, there I was in the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room after their morning skate on Wednesday smack in the middle of the media scrum surrounding Sidney Crosby. I listened intently as Crosby answered the questions pitched to him by the reporters. At one point, I glanced to my right and noticed an empty stall next to Crosby’s and for a moment I wondered whose stall it was. That question was quickly answered when I noticed the nameplate. It reads: Mario Lemieux.
|Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux are neighbors in the dressing room. |
After the reporters left I approached Crosby for a quick chat. I had never been to Mellon Arena before today and I had never heard about Lemieux still having a stall in the dressing room, let alone right next to Crosby’s.
I asked Crosby what having Lemieux as a neighbor meant to him.
“It’s pretty neat,” Crosby said. “It’s a constant reminder for me and for everybody else. Any kind of touch from him that we can have in the room is nice. I think it says a lot about how well respected he is around here and everywhere. It’s a pretty nice gesture by our trainers to keep that his stall.”
Lemieux served as a mentor to Crosby when he entered the NHL.
“He’s someone that I leaned on early on and tried to watch as much as possible and that’s something that has definitely helped me,” Crosby said. “I’m pretty fortunate because he’s still around a lot. We all are. For a lot of us younger guys he’s always kind of there talking to us once in a while. We all appreciate that.”
Barring a matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals, Wednesday’s game will be the last game the Coyotes will play in Mellon Arena. The Penguins are moving to a new rink across the street next season.
First opened in 1961, Mellon Arena is a very distinct facility. Its nickname “The Igloo” is spot on.
“I don’t mind this old building,” Coyotes Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson said. “Obviously, the locker rooms are a little bit old but when you get out there (on the ice) it’s still got a great feel and I hope they can preserve some of that in the new building. … It is a great hockey place.”
|Ulf Samuelsson's portrait in the Penguins' Ring of Fame. |
Samuelsson, who played for the Penguins from 1990-95, also said he felt his style of play was appreciated most in Pittsburgh. That is evident by his inclusion in the team’s Ring of Fame on display inside the rink.
“It’s really an underrated city,” said Samuelsson, who twice won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. “A lot of people still think it’s a dirty, old steel town, but I think the people here are friendly and I had a great time here as a player. The quality of life is great here.”
Center Robert Lang has seen a lot of NHL arenas in his lengthy career.
“I like this old rink,” Lang said. “I still like Joe Louis Arena. I think they have their own character, even though looking around the locker room it’s not that pristine, but it has something to it. The new arenas are pretty much all the same. As much as you like to see them go, it’s still pretty sad.”
Defenseman Sami Lepisto likely will make his Coyotes debut tonight in place of Kurt Sauer.
Thanks for reading.