On the opening night of the Penguins’ playoff run, the spirit of the Igloo was resurrected as deafening “Let’s Go Pens!” chants emanated from the hallowed ground where the Civic Arena once stood.
The Trib Total Media “Big Screen,” which has been a staple of Penguins playoff hockey since 2008, played host to a large contingent of diehard Pens fans in the arena parking lot across the street from CONSOL Energy Center Wednesday night.
The crowd was treated to a showcase of the Penguins’ stunning skill in their 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders in Game 1 and reacted to every hit, save, precise pass and, of course, every goal as if they were part of the contingent inside the sold-out arena.
And the fact that the 16’ x 9’ high-resolution LED screen was moved to the former Igloo site made the experience all the more meaningful for the fans.
“It’s a lot of history,” Jonathan Kovac of Peters Township said. “All the greats (like) (Mario) Lemieux and (Jaromir) Jagr on that team and watching all the greats on our team now – it’s really special.”
After Pascal Dupuis scored the game’s second goal in the first period, the crowd simultaneously rose and erupted, while twirling white playoff rally towels distributed at the gate, matching the scene happening across the street. When Marc-Andre Fleury was forced to make a quick glove save late in the first, the crowd let out a collective sigh before belting out a boisterous “FLEURY! FLEURY!” chant that continued on for at least another 30 seconds.
The fans enjoyed the crowd atmosphere the big screen provided and said the fanbase’s reaction to the screen over the past five years leaves no doubt that Pittsburgh is indeed a hockey town.
“It just shows we have the greatest fans in the league,” Andrew Kelsesky of Mt. Washington said. “It’s been great. I feel like the Penguins are just getting off to a really great start to the playoffs and that shows here.”
The screen was part of the FedEx Ground Fan Zone, which provided an entertaining family friendly atmosphere. The night kicked off with a few festivities in the parking lot to entertain the fans prior to the puck drop. Hockey themed games were set up on the outer perimeter while a live band, Lovebettie, performed and led the crowd in a “Let’s Go Pens!” chant.
“You can still come out here and it’s free,” Paul Creely of Bridgeville said. “There’s good food offered and it’s pretty exciting and very family-oriented, so it’s been awesome.”
Another remarkable trait the crowd exhibited is that they were able to be enthusiastic about the action while remaining without hindering that family friendly scene, which many in attendance appreciated.
“It’s wonderful to see the youth out here and families out here with children,” Halyna Kowal of the South Hills said. “So, it’s a safe environment for everybody to have a good time. I feel so much better out here with everybody enjoying it than sitting at home in front of the TV set.”
PHOTOS FROM THE BIG SCREEN