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Bylsma, Shero Unveil Penguins' Plaque at NHL Headquarters

by John McGourty / Pittsburgh Penguins
NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma beamed with pride Monday when they unveiled the latest Stanley Cup plaque honoring their 2008-09 Stanley Cup winners at NHL headquarters.

The Penguins are in town for Monday night's game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET).

Fifty-two Penguins' names grace the plaque, which is displayed on a wall that honors the players, coaches, executives, trainers and equipment managers all the way back to the first Stanley Cup-winning team, the 1893 Montreal Hockey Club.

Shero and Bylsma stepped up to the wall and removed the veil that had been covering their plaque. Both men stood silently for a minute as they read the names. It was obvious that the moment was having an impact on them.

"I'm on there!" Bylsma said to Shero, who for a minute, seemed speechless.

"This is great, to see our team's name up here with all these other great teams," Shero said quietly.

"We play a game and when you win something that goes to another level and you see the history, you feel like you're a part of the history of hockey," Bylsma said. "You feel like your name and your team belong. I think it's great."

Shero was reminded that he is joining his father, Fred, as the only father-son, coach-general manager combination to win the Stanley Cup. Ray Shero moved over to look at the plaques of the 1974 and 1975 Philadelphia Flyers that his father coached to the Stanley Cup.

"I've heard that. I wasn't sure if it had happened before or not, especially on the Stanley Cup, where dad's name is on there twice. To have my name on there, I think, is really special, but it's also really special for my kids, (Chris and Kyle), who have always known their grandfather's name is on the Stanley Cup and now my name is on there as well. They're 11 and 14, so they really got a big kick out of that. That's another highlight."

While no other father and son had combined to achieve that feat, Shero's predecessor, Craig Patrick, the architect of the 1991 and 1992 champion Penguins, joined his grandfather, Lester, as executives who won the Stanley Cup. Lester Patrick was general manager and coach of the 1928 New York Rangers and had previously won as coach of the 1926 Montreal Maroons.

"That's good company, trust me," Shero said.

Bylsma is quick to tell you he wasn't the greatest hockey player in his nine NHL seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, but few loved the game more. He was an excellent defensive forward, very good at penalty killing. He had limited offensive skills and was valued more for his maturity, intensity, leadership and understanding of the game. Bylsma said he knew well before his career ended that he would try to coach hockey. He didn't know if he'd get this far, though.

Bylsma had been alternate captain of the Ducks and when his knees failed him, the organization made him an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2004-05. He was a New York Islanders assistant coach the next season and then became head coach of the Penguins' AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

After watching the Penguins struggle all season to a 27-25-5 record, good for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, Shero named Bylsma interim coach on Feb. 15, 2009, and the team responded by going 18-3-4 in their last 25 games. It was the second-best record of any NHL coach in his first 25 games.

"Didn't expect it at all," Bylsma said. "I had asked Chuck Fletcher, a good friend, we were together in Anaheim and I had been an assistant for them in Cincinnati, if he'd give me a job as an AHL head coach. Not that he had an AHL job to give, just was I qualified? And he said no, that he'd been burned with young, inexperienced coaches and that I needed more time. But I probably knew that I would coach starting about seven years before I retired. I didn't know it would go like this."

Hiring Bylsma wasn't Shero's only good move last season. He also brought in key forwards Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams, defenseman Philippe Boucher, and goalie Mathieu Garon.

The Penguins strong finish propelled them to second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games; the Washington Capitals in seven amazing games and then swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

Their hopes looked bleak when they were beaten, 5-0, by the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final but they rallied to beat Detroit in Pittsburgh, 2-1, in Game 6 and then withstood a furious Red Wings' finish in Game 7, winning again by a 2-1 score.

With his eyes scanning the wall, looking at past teams and players to win the Stanley Cup, Bylsma thought of how he, Shero and the players had added another important chapter to Penguins' lore.

"This summer, when I got a chance to see the Stanley Cup and read the names on it, you see the Canadiens there many times. Now, you see the Penguins on there three times," Bylsma said. "You don't get to have that sense of pride as a player and a coach all that often in your career. In my career, I played with the Anaheim Ducks, a young franchise with not a lot of history.

"You feel like there is a sense of history with the Pittsburgh Penguins. To add to the development of that history of 1991 and 1992 now with 2009, not a lot of teams can say they have three or more Stanley Cups.

"When you feel like you're adding to the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's a great thing, a unique feeling."

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