Pittsburgh Penguins fans continue to pack Mellon Arena.
This season, they’re doing it at a record level.
Already, Penguins fans have established a franchise record with 48-straight home sellouts. They’re at it again as they set another mark Wednesday night. The contest marks the 35th sellout of the season to snap the old mark of 34, which was set in 1988-89 and tied in 1989-90.
“This is another tremendous tribute to our fans, who continue to show their remarkable passion and support for 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.”
This game marks 48-straight sellouts at Mellon Arena, too, which continues the franchise record and is a tribute to the fans.
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 35 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.
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).
Actually, the Penguins’ streak 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.
Of course, the Penguins’ young and talented team has provided plenty of excitement for its fans.
“It’s a little more fun for us to give them a winning product. My first couple years here, we struggled a little bit, but even looking back to those days, it was impressive with the crowds we got and the support we got, even past the trade deadline in the times we got knocked out of playoff contention,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “The support has always been there. I think it’s a little more fun for the fans since we’re winning. It definitely gets us going to play at home.”
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 Penguins feed off the electric environment the fans create at Mellon Arena.
“Especially playing such a long season, there are games where maybe your tank isn’t completely full, in terms of energy,” Orpik said. “The adrenaline the crowd gives you at home definitely gets you up to the energy level you need to have. The crowd has always played a big part. This has always been a fun building to play in; it gets really loud.”
And, thanks to the crowd support, the Penguins are making Mellon Arena an undesirable destination for opposing teams.
“I think so. Maybe earlier in the year, other teams wouldn’t say so,” Orpik said. “But, in the past couple months, it’s become a pretty tough place to play. Maybe we haven’t been having the starts we wanted at home, but we’ve definitely been getting the results. That’s the most-important thing.”
The Penguins also announced that their season ticket waiting list has grown to more than 1,000 accounts. Mike Mrzlack earned that honor as his account was the first to reach the 1,000 plateau. He was honored by the Penguins with a pair of tickets to tonight’s game and an Evgeni Malkin autographed puck.
“That was a nice surprise,” he said. “It’s a nice way for the team to give back to the fans.”
Tonight’s game is the first hockey game for Mrzlack, who hails from a small town in Indiana and recently moved to the area with his wife, Jennifer.
“It’s been fun hearing about the team in the news and watching them on TV,” he said. “I got the puck in the mail and my seats are on the glass, so that’s great. Everyone told me I will be spoiled to sit so close at my first hockey game.”
For goaltender Dany Sabourin, the area fans’ passion for the Penguins was clear when he first joined the franchise.
“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.”