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Pens greats have special moment at NHL100 ceremony

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

LOS ANGELES - In a night filled with special moments, one stood out above the rest.

On Friday evening, as the NHL continued celebrating its centennial season by unveiling the final 67 members of its 100 Greatest NHL Players at the Microsoft Theater, Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux and captain Sidney Crosby headlined seven Penguins players named, joined by Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier and Luc Robitaille.

After the ceremony concluded, all seven of those Penguins greats were able to get together for a timeless, classic photo despite a crowded, chaotic stage.

"We were trying to get all the Pittsburgh guys together," Lemieux smiled. "I'm glad we got it done."

The significance of that moment, and the night, was not lost on Crosby, the lone active Pens player named.

"When you play for a team, you understand the history of the team and what comes with it," he said. "Being around Mario for as long as I have been now, it just gives you that much more appreciation."

However, there was obviously a very notable omission from that list - the Pens' other deserving franchise center, Evgeni Malkin.

"I was very surprised," Lemieux admitted. "There are a lot of great players that didn't make it. He has won two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, an Art Ross. It's tough."

After the picture was over, Jagr stood off to the side grinning at his former teammates, whom he hasn't seen in a while. Not only is it the NHL's centennial season; it's the Pens' 50th anniversary season. And since Jagr is still playing at age 44, he hasn't been able to be part of any of the reunions the team has been hosting throughout the year.

"He is still playing, I can't believe it," Lemieux smiled. "He is still playing well. He is in great shape. Hopefully he can play a couple more years."

So to be with them tonight for such a big honor was, as Jagr said, very special.

"I have to say thanks to those guys, I made it," grinned Jagr. "They were a big help for me. Mario, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey, even Luc I played a little bit with. I never played with Sid, I would probably have more goals by now (laughs). But It's special."

Francis, who was part of Pittsburgh's 1991 and '92 Stanley Cup-winning squads, has been equally as busy as the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes - and was just as thrilled to be reunited, especially in a situation like this.

"Anytime you win a Cup with guys, you form a bond that is with you the rest of your lives," he said. "It's great getting back here and seeing a lot of those faces. Jags was 18 when I got traded there. Mario and I were a little bit older than that, but it's great to see him still playing. Seeing Luc and Trots and all the guys I played with, it's still fun."

For Crosby, it was difficult to put into words what the night as a whole meant to him. He and Jagr were two of just six active players to make the list, along with Chicago's Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith and Washington's Alex Ovechkin.

"I was just honored," Crosby said. "There is just a small window to play and be part of the 100th anniversary. The fact that I am currently playing during this, and I have a chance to meet these great players, it's definitely something that I am thankful for, to be able to meet all these guys."

He admitted to having a few fan moments throughout a night that even featured a media conference with Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky beforehand.

"I tried to soak every minute of it up as far as meeting different guys," Crosby said. "A lot of these guys you grew up watching. Some of them I grew up hearing about, reading about. I think there's just a level of respect and you appreciate they paved the way for the next guys to come in. So just being able to kind of share experiences and see how enthusiastic they are still about the game, to be following everything, keeping tabs on us young guys even. It's a small world but everyone kind of shares that passion. That's the biggest thing I would say stands out."

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