Now, they’re taking it to an entirely new level.
Sunday’s contest was an historic one for the Penguins and their fans – the 31st-straight regular-season sellout at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins previously recorded 30-straight regular-season sellouts between 1988 and 1989 – the final 28 games of the 1988-89 season and the first two of 1989-90. For this streak, the Penguins sold out the final 13 games of the 2006-07 regular season and all 18 games so far in 2007-08. Seating capacity at Mellon Arena is 16,940. Every game this season has attracted a standing-room-only sellout crowd.
“This sellout streak is a tremendous tribute to our fans, who have shown incredible passion and loyalty to the Penguins,” said team president David Morehouse.
The players appreciate their fans’ loyal support, too.
“We have the opportunity to play in front of those great fans every night, so I think we feel pretty fortunate. We definitely appreciate the fans who show up there each and every night,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think that’s something we’re proud of, but a lot of fans should be proud of it, too, and the fact they’ve been able to do that for this many games, especially. Also, they are a big reason why we’re going to be here a long, long time with the new arena.”
The Penguins had two other long sellout streaks, both of 25 games. The final 22 contests of 1989-90 and the first three of the 1990-91 season. Mario Lemieux’s comeback sparked a second 25-game streak (the final 24 games of 2000-01 and the first game of the 2001-02 season).
“It’s been crazy over the last couple years since I have been here,” winger Colby Armstrong said. “I heard lots of stories about the fans and how crazy the city was for hockey back in the Stanley Cup championship days. From talking to people, you get that same feeling with the way the support is around the city for hockey now.”
Actually, the Penguins’ streak now surpasses any during the Stanley Cup years. The Penguins sold out 28 games in the 1990-91 season and 32 games in 1991-92 campaign. Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in both of those seasons. In 1992-93, the team sold out 30 games during its march to the Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL’s best regular-season record.
The Penguins’ regular-season record for total sellouts in a season is 34, set in the 1988-89 season and tied in 1989-90.
The fans’ continued support has been a huge advantage to the team.
“You don’t want to say you take it for granted, but you just get used to that support. For us, we realize how fun it is to have it that way,” Crosby said. “There is definitely that sense of having a boost, especially when you need it if you’re down a goal or if you’re in a big game. When you’re in that atmosphere and environment, I think that motivates everyone.”
The players feed off the energy the fans provide.
“Definitely. You definitely feel the crowd and hear it. Every little thing, the guys really react to that,” Armstrong said. “Home ice is a big thing when you have great fans. It definitely helps out and our fans are great.”
Goaltender Dany Sabourin agreed: “When the fans are really into it and we get a couple goals, it feels great. I remember the game against Carolina when we came back and scored and tied the game and it was just wild here. It’s a lot of fun to play with that kind of fan support.”
According to the players, the fans jolt Mellon Arena alive when they’re really into the games.
“A lot of older buildings are like that,” forward Erik Christensen said. “In Vancouver it was really loud and intense. It’s something about those older buildings, I think. Edmonton is one of the older buildings in the league and it gets really loud in there. Being in Detroit, it was loud, too – it’s something about that atmosphere, where the fans feel close to you and on top of you, which is something about Mellon Arena I think everyone loves.”
Of course, the Penguins’ young and talented team, led by Crosby, the reigning MVP and scoring champion, has provided plenty of excitement for its fans.
“I was here for the first year Sid came. Even the two years before that, seeing and watching Pittsburgh play, there were not many people in the stands and the team wasn’t that successful,” Christensen said. “As soon as Sid came, and I was here for 30 games that year, you could see everyone being excited about hockey again. It’s a blast playing at home because it’s loud playing in that building. The fans love the team and they are passionate about the game and Sid and what he is bringing. It’s like that everywhere he goes, but the fans here have been great. They win us games most nights when it’s tight.”
For Sabourin, the fans’ passion for the Penguins was clear when he first joined the team.
“As soon as I came into this organization, it’s what I knew just from playing in Wilkes-Barre and, when I came up here, everyone was talking about it,” he said. “People talk about how the atmosphere is in Canada, but here I think the fans are the same. It’s crazy with sellout after sellout. It’s really impressive.”