Bill Guerin spent time playing for eight different teams in his 18-year NHL career, but two teams stood out the most to him – his first team (New Jersey) and his last team (Pittsburgh).
He won a Stanley Cup with both squads, so it was only fitting that he announced his retirement Monday morning at CONSOL Energy Center before the Penguins-Devils game.
“The Devils gave me my start. Lou Lamoriello had a lot of faith in me,” Guerin said. "On the backside, the last team that I ever played for was the Penguins. It was one of the most positive experiences of my life. Fortunately, we were able to win the Stanley Cup as a family together. It was amazing."
The fact that Guerin chose to retire in Pittsburgh is not lost on the current Penguins players, many of whom spent time after the morning skate reminiscing about their time with Guerin.
Guerin – who came to Pittsburgh at the 2009 trade deadline – was a hard-working goal-scorer on the ice, but he was a prankster off the ice, never afraid to make fun of anyone.
“I think a couple minutes in he was already making fun of Sidney (Crosby),” Marc-Andre Fleury
said with a smile.
“Oh yeah,” Crosby agreed. “The first time I met him, within ten seconds. I was able to learn a lot as far as keeping things loose, and I think that’s a big part of what he brought.”
Crosby cited Guerin’s quick wit and enjoyable personality as one reason why he fit in so quickly.
“He’s got a skill,” Crosby said. “I don’t know what it is. But he’s got a talent, he’s quick. You can’t catch that guy. You don’t want to get into a verbal battle with him because he’s really quick.”
Fleury wasn’t immune to Guerin’s antics either.
“I remember I grew a mustache in the playoffs, but my mustache was weak,” Fleury said. “Every day he would come in and put his finger over my mustache and go, ‘hello my friend’ (with a heavy French accent).
“I have a lot of good memories. He scored some big goals, too.”
One goal in particular that everyone pointed to, even Guerin himself, was his overtime game-winner in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Philadelphia. The Penguins found themselves with a two-man advantage late in the first overtime session, and Guerin sent a shot from near the goal line past goaltender Martin Biron to give the Penguins a two-game lead in the series. Pittsburgh would wind up winning that series, and every other series of the playoffs to capture the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
“That was real special for me,” Guerin said. “I was pretty proud of that one."
“That was a huge goal for us,” Crosby said. “I think Billy scored some big goals throughout his time here, but that was a big one. He was a leader, and that was a good example of him stepping up at the right time for us.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that the goal “kind of got (the team) started” en route to the championship. The importance of Guerin's veteran leadership on that championship season can't be understated.
"Billy’s a true professional, a guy that could always make every situation light," Chris Kunitz
said. "He could always be a disciplinarian if we needed that in the locker room. His experience was second-to-none. It was a pleasure playing with a gentleman and a guy with a great family, they brought a lot to our team and to our organization when they were here."
Guerin made quite an impression on everyone in the Penguins organization.
When asked what first comes to mind when he thinks of Guerin, Bylsma responded with an image that nearly every Penguin fan can remember from the Stanley Cup run.
“I just think of that big gray beard.”