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Penguins Alumni Remember Mellon Arena

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
With the Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh’s brand new state-of-the-art arena, scheduled to open for the 2010-11 NHL hockey season, the clock is ticking for hockey games to be played at the team’s current venue, Mellon Arena.

Mellon Arena has hosted the Penguins since the team’s inception into the NHL in 1967. The 2009-10 season, scheduled to begin Oct. 2 vs. NY Rangers, will be the final year of hockey played at the building.

“It’s sad but there are a lot of great memories,” said former Penguin Bryan Trottier, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh. “There were wonderful years in the 90s and the 2000s. There will be a lot of memories for a lot of fans.

“But it will be a little bit sad that the atmosphere at Mellon Arena will be no more. They’ll go out with a bang this year. I’m sure there will be nothing but fond memories for a lot of people for a long time. Kudos to the Penguins, the city and the fans for the new arena. I’m looking forward to building that atmosphere there.”

“It’s sad to see those old buildings go,” said Ken Schinkel, who coached the Penguins during the 1973-74 and 1976-77 seasons. “Mellon Arena going is another sad thing but that’s the way life is. You have to go on.”

Mellon Arena, which was first built in 1961, is the oldest facility in the National Hockey League. It was originally named the Civic Arena and was affectionately referred to as “The Igloo.”

“It’s going to be a sad day when they close it but it will be a good day for the Penguins with the new arena,” said Penguins Hall of Famer Rick Kehoe. “It’s been in the works for some time. The city needs it. Let’s face it, Mellon Arena is the oldest rink in the league. You have to catch up with the rest of the teams and that’s what they’ve done. I think they’ve done a great job of organizing it. Everything worked out well.”

During its lifetime, Mellon Arena has hosted the Stanley Cup Final four times, the NHL All-Star Game, the NHL Entry Draft, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the Harlem Globetrotters, professional wrestling, ice skating and gymnastics competitions and popular acts as far back as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

But for Penguins fans, most of their memories will involve the building’s atmosphere with hockey played at the highest level and at the game’s highest stage.

“You always think of the Stanley Cup years,” Kehoe said. “Those were big years. When you’re a powerhouse and you win, you have fun.”

“I like the Lemieux moments when he’d score a goal and the fans would pay a tribute to him,” Trottier said. “I remember the announcer yelling, ‘Mario Lemieuxxxxxx.’ Then the fans would go crazy. That was special. It was pretty chilling.”
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