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Penguins Hold Final Alumni Salute

by Nicole Jelinek / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins held their final alumni salute on Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets to continue their celebration of the organization's 50th anniversary season.

The alumni got the opportunity to attend the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena and were honored in a special on-ice ceremony before the game.

Fifty-goal scorer Jean Pronovost, general manager/coach Eddie Johnston and Hall of Famers Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier were among the honored guests - as was fan favorite Darius Kasparaitis, back in Pittsburgh for the first time since his playing career ended.

"It's great. It's cold. I live in Miami, so it's a little bit of a culture shock," Kasparitis joked. "Otherwise, it's always good to come back. Unfortunately it's not the Mellon Arena anymore, the Igloo. Otherwise it is a beautiful town."

While Kasparaitis was happy to be back in the city, he was also excited for some local fare.

Kasparaitis recalled wedding soup as a "Pittsburgh thing" and was looking forward to slurping some down.

"No, not for breakfast." Kasparaitis chuckled this morning. "But I am looking forward to it for lunch."

Kasparaitis was a defensive player who was known for his aggressive physical playing style and led his team in hits many times. The fans here adored him, and they showed their appreciation for him when he was announced.

The cheers continued throughout a standing ovation for the rugged blueliner, whose best moment as a player came when he scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals against Buffalo (and who could forget his joyful sliding celebration?)

"I played most of my career in Pittsburgh," said Kasparaitis, who was a Penguin from 1996-02. "I played here six years. My first child was born in Pittsburgh. I was nervous because I played for the teams they don't really like. I was a Penguin. I know how they felt about the Rangers and then I played for the Rangers. Otherwise, it's nice to be back and see the people still love you. Sometimes you see people posting on Facebook and having memories about me. It's great that people appreciate my style of game."

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