Dropping a ceremonial puck as part of the Penguins’ Bicentennial Night, celebrating Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary, before the team’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday was certainly nerve-racking for mayor Bill Peduto.
“There’s rarely a time when a politician goes into a sporting event where they don’t get a chorus of boos,” Peduto laughed. “But I’m going to assume they’re saying ‘Ped-oots’ tonight.”
While there may have been a few ‘Ped-oots’ here and there, the reception from the crowd here at CONSOL Energy Center was mostly warm and welcoming on this special evening. But it would have been a memorable night for Mayor Peduto regardless, particularly because of the Penguins alumni who accompanied him down the black carpet to center ice.
On one side was Ken Schinkel, who was a member of the Penguins’ original 1967 team; on the other was Duane Rupp, who joined the organization the following season. And both men had quite a memorable impact on a young Peduto growing up in the Pittsburgh area.
“Ken Schinkel taught me how to play hockey,” Peduto said, adding that he went to the Ken Schinkel Hockey Camp out at the old Pine Arena in Swissvale.
And there’s even more to the story.
When he was 7 years old, Peduto showed up to Schinkel’s hockey camp unprepared with little to no equipment, and the Pens forward gave him instructions on the things he'd need to buy for camp.
Mayor Peduto then went to Rupp's Hockey and Inline Equipment store where Rupp helped him find a pair of Bauer skates – that he still has – and the rest of his hockey equipment.
Mayor Peduto used that gear to play street hockey in his neighborhood with a few more faces familiar to Pens fans. A couple, beloved – a few others, not so much.
“I grew up next door to Lowell MacDonald, who played for the Pens in the 70s and his sons Lowell and Lane were my best friends,” Mayor Peduto said. “The Hextalls (Ron and Rodney, sons of former Pen Bryan Hextall) ended up moving down the street and we all ended up playing together.
“On that little driveway, we had a future Hobey Baker award winner, U.S. Olympian, national champion and captain of Harvard, and a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender.”
Mayor Peduto clearly has amazing hockey memories, so tonight was the perfect way for him to start the city’s Bicentennial celebrations.
In addition to the ceremonial puck drop, the Pens wore their Pittsburgh gold third jerseys featuring a custom City of Pittsburgh Bicentennial patch. The game-worn sweaters will be auctioned off on www.nhl.com in the near future with proceeds benefiting a local youth organization.
The City of Pittsburgh Public Safety Honor Guard also presented the colors and Pittsburgh Police Officer Elizabeth Vitalbo-Merkel sang the Star-Spangled Banner.
On Friday, the city’s Incorporation Day festivities begin as Pittsburgh was incorporated as a city on March 18, 1816. To commemorate Pittsburgh’s 200th birthday, the City of Pittsburgh and Bicentennial Commission have a full day of events scheduled at the City-County Building beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 18. Complete details on Incorporation Day can be found here.