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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins victory parade set for Wednesday

'City of Champions' to celebrate Pittsburgh's fourth Stanley Cup title

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- On June 15, 2009, a 21-year-old Sidney Crosby hoisted the Stanley Cup from the back of a truck driving through an estimated crowd of 375,000 fans.

Seven years to the day, a similar scene will take place in downtown Pittsburgh.

On Monday, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County announced a victory parade celebrating the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins would be held Wednesday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. The parade will follow similar routes to ones previously used to celebrate Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers championships.

When the Penguins last won the Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh had celebrated the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII victory against the Arizona Cardinals four months earlier. The championship was the Steelers' sixth and second in four years after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

The Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run resulted in three championship parades in the city in a span of just more than four years. That marked the first time Pittsburgh welcomed the Stanley Cup since 1992, when the Mario Lemieux-led Penguins won their second of back-to-back championships.

In 2009, the recent success of the Steelers, combined with the Penguins' first championship in 17 years, created a boisterous environment with a larger crowd than the estimated 350,000 fans who greeted the Steelers that February.

Video: Fans celebrate as the Penguins arrive in Pittsburgh

When Crosby, who became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup, traveled down Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, fans 20 rows deep chanted and cheered. Confetti rained from parking garages, where kids sat atop their parents' shoulders. Downtown workers who couldn't get the day off leaned out of windows.

When the Cup travels those same streets Wednesday, the environment is expected to be equally jubilant. It also could be slightly different.

Expectations came from that 2009 championship.

The Penguins' young core of Crosby, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Evgeni Malkin, the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, seemed destined to bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh relatively soon. The excitement in the city on that late-spring day in 2009 stemmed from a belief those fans were witnessing the birth of a dynasty.

That didn't happen. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, the Boston Bruins in 2011, and the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.

Through those years, the Penguins were mired in several disappointing runs during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They lost to the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 before allowing a 3-1 series lead to slip away against the Tampa Bay Lightning a year later. In 2012, the Penguins lost a turbulent series to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games before being swept by the Bruins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh allowed the New York Rangers to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in 2014 and was eliminated by New York again in 2015, when the Penguins lost a first-round series in five games.

The fans weren't expecting that level of adversity. Those moments have led to Wednesday, when the Penguins and their fans will release that frustration.

Pittsburgh's celebrations have evolved from a park gathering in 1991 and a rally at Three Rivers Stadium the following year. Each has looked significantly different but shared the same flavor.

Former Penguins forward Phil Bourque, now a radio analyst on 105.9 FM in Pittsburgh, has helped bridge the gap between each championship.

In 1991, he asked a roaring crowd, "What do you say we take [the Stanley Cup] out on the river and party all summer?" A year later, he punctuated a poem by saying, "Let's take this Cup to the river for some more fun because one time wasn't enough. Enjoy it, Pittsburgh, we're No. 1."

After the 2009 run, Bourque took to the microphone atop the stage at Stanwix Street and reiterated his hope for a summer-long river party.

When Wednesday arrives in Pittsburgh, history shows only one thing can be expected: Bourque will want to take the Cup out on the river and party all summer.

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