The Penguins alumni took to the ice Tuesday morning for a scrimmage to prepare for the alumni game at Heinz Field on Friday morning.
While the pace was a little slower than when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and ‘92, the former Penguins didn’t miss a beat, and still had the same chemistry as before.
Winning a championship will do that.
“I’ve played with hundreds of guys throughout my career,” Phil Bourque said. “But the guys you win Stanley Cups with, you just know their tendencies and you know their strengths and their weaknesses.”
Mario Lemieux, Rick Tocchet, Bryan Trottier, Troy Loney, Gilles Meloche and Jay Caufield were just a few of the alumni that took part in the scrimmage – along with the current Penguins coaching staff.
The game was a goal-scoring fest, as there was no hitting, which allowed the extremely talented forwards to use their stick-handling skills freely.
Bob Errey netted “at least” a hat trick, though even he didn’t really know how many times he tickled the twine.
“We still kind of have that feel of where guys are going to be,” Bourque said. “It’s like a sixth sense. You know which way a player shoots, and those are the things you never forget.”
It’s been 18 years since the Penguins’ 1992 championship, but the on-ice conversations and the locker room banter still had the same feeling to it.
“(The jokes) are alive and well, all the nicknames and everything,” Trottier said. “It’s great because all of the guys go back to the locker room personalities.”
“We laughed at the same stupid stuff, and we still jab at each other just like we did 18 years ago,” Bourque said. “It’s a blast.”
Loney even took the joking outside the locker room. When asked about the high-scoring nature of the scrimmage, he joked that the defensemen weren’t very good.
All of the alumni said it’s an honor to be able to take part in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by facing the Capitals alumni in a game on Dec. 31 at Heinz Field. But bringing the gang back together is even more special.
“Getting together with guys you haven’t seen in a while – that’s the fun part,” Loney said. “Getting on the ice and playing with them is nice, but getting to hang out with them is fun.”
“It’s pretty special,” Trottier said. “We had some success. From the standpoint of the group that’s around here in Pittsburgh, we see each other all the time and that’s wonderful. So then when we get together as a large group, it’s even better.”
Trottier won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders before winning two in Pittsburgh, but he said the Cups in Pittsburgh were just as meaningful as his first four.
“It’s a great group of guys to win a championship with,” Trottier said. “That, to me, was just very special. It was rewarding in that regard. Then to celebrate with the city of Pittsburgh was fantastic. We celebrated with Long Island when we won the four there, but this city knows how to party.”
Trottier said that there is just something unique about the Penguins organization.
“Once a Penguin, always a Penguin,” he said.