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Banner Raising Emotional for Fans, Players

by Bryanna McDermott / Pittsburgh Penguins

PPG Paints Arena was adorned in glittering gold light with 'Let's Go Pens' chants filling the air as the 2016 Stanley Cup Champions banner rose into the rafters of the Penguins' home on Thursday night before their regular-season opener against Washington.

It was a moment that both the players and the fans will never forget.

The pregame ceremony began with a few words from Paul Steigerwald, the ROOT SPORTS play-by-play announcer.

"Fifty years. Four Cups. 15 scoring titles. This is a franchise of champions,' Steigerwald said.

A common denominator in all four championships is Mario Lemieux, former player and current owner, who received a standing ovation by fans during the ceremony.

Having Lemieux be a member of all four Stanley Cup teams means a lot to fans, including season ticket holders Vince Rokicsak and Bruce Barron.

"It was very emotional to see," Barron said. "Fifty years, four banners. It's very hard to do and to see it done for the fourth time, and to see Mario on the ice for all four of them, it was just emotional."

"He always gets a nice round of applause," Rokicsak said of Lemieux. "He's hockey in Pittsburgh."

Captain Sidney Crosby also made an appearance at the pregame ceremony, despite being out of the lineup with a concussion, and he lifted the Stanley Cup on home ice in front of the fans for the first time (he did not in 2009).

"It was exciting to see him right here, right next to us," said Barron, who was sitting in section 115 as Crosby carried the Stanley Cup out to center ice. "You could see that emotion, it's still in his eyes."

A video played during the ceremony, highlighting the long journey the Pens took to lift the Cup in 2016. The montage of the past season was enough to make any dedicated fan emotional, just as it did the players when they watched it at their private ring ceremony on Monday.

"It gave me chills," said Samantha Payne. "It was very cool to see the 2016 banner go up because it's been seven years since our last one. It felt good, I felt proud."

As much as it was an exceptional experience for fans, it was an equally special for players.

"It's good memories when you see the banner go up," goaltender Marc Andre Fleury said after the game. "And the crowd was great again."

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