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Pens Honor Molinari

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Dave Molinari won’t like this.

He’s not just part of the story. He is the story.

Reporters never – NEVER – want to be to part of the story. It’s in their DNA to stand aside, be impartial observers, gather all the pertinent information and deliver it to the public. Molinari’s singular problem is that he’s done it so well in 27 year of covering the Penguins for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press that the Hockey Hall of Fame couldn’t help but honor him with the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for excellence in hockey journalism.

The Glassport native will officially receive the award Nov. 9 at the Hall of Fame luncheon in Toronto, and tonight the Penguins honor him for that achievement, and for his exceptional service to Pittsburgh hockey fans since 1983.

“We’ve had Hall of Fame players, we have a Hall of Famer broadcaster, and now we have a Hall of Fame writer here in Pittsburgh,” said team president David Morehouse. “So many of our fans have grown up and followed the team and learned about the team through Dave Molinari’s prose. He’s been an essential part of the growth of hockey in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins congratulate him on this tremendous honor.”

In a career that spanned three decades and is about to enter a fourth, Molinari has covered Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Bryan Trottier,  Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, some of the most gifted players ever to snap on a helmet. He’s also covered Mitch Lamoreux, Lee Giffin, Todd Charlesworth, Dwight Mathiasen, Wayne Van Dorp. Wally Weir, Arto Javanainen, Scott Bjugstad and Drake Berehowksy. Whew. He wrote just as elegantly about the non-stars as he did about the Hall of Famers.

He has chronicled the triumphs and travails of four general mangers, five owners, 11 team presidents, and 14 head coaches.  He covered the 1983-84 team that went 16-58-6 and the 1992-93 team that went 56-21-7 -- not to mention three Stanley Cups, two dead-last place finishes, two lockouts and one bankruptcy.

Basically, if Molinari didn’t cover it, it probably didn’t happen to the Penguins.

“It’s just great to see Dave get rewarded for all the hard work and dedication and, quite frankly, the love of the game that he’s shown over the years,” said Mike Lange, who received the Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award for broadcasters in 2001. “There isn’t any question he’s respected in all hockey circles. His peers recognize the work that he’s done, and he’s earned the right to be in the Hall of Fame.”

A graduate of Penn State, Molinari began his career at the McKeesport Daily News and then moved to The Pittsburgh Press, where he started as an overnight copy editor. In his first year on the hockey beat, one of his assignments was to travel to Montreal to write a story about a promising teen-aged prospect named Mario Lemieux, who was on the Penguins’ radar. Lemieux’s Laval team was going up that night against Verdun and their fine goaltender, Troy Crosby.

Fast-forward 22 years, and Molinari was covering Troy’s son, Sidney.

It’s been quite a ride.

But as much as players and coaches have been entertained by his writing over the years, they’ve also doubled-over at his sense of humor and biting sarcasm – not only in print, but in the daily give-and-take banter of the dressing room and the press box. To be a Penguins player is to be stung by an occasional verbal dart from Molinari. It’s all part of the experience of playing here.

“He’s just a fixture,” said Phil Bourque, who skated for the Penguins for eight seasons and now works alongside Molinari as a broadcaster. “Whenever the door would open for the media, here would come Dave lumbering into the room, always with a comment, usually sarcastic. He made you laugh just being around him.”

Added Bob Errey, former player and current broadcaster, “There would be days I’d be disappointed if I didn’t take a shot from Davey. That’s just part of his personality. But he was always classy, always fair, and had great respect among the players.”

Those opinions and memories are shared by Molinari’s media brethren as well. Bob McKenzie, current Canadian TV commentator and former editor of The Hockey News, quipped, “Of all the beat reporters who have covered a team in the NHL, Dave Molinari is … one of them. That’s actually something that could have been said by Molinari himself, except that it probably would have been a lot funnier and more pointed and deprecating. Molinari is to dry wit what Mario Lemieux is to hockey in Pittsburgh. Not that David hasn’t been a force on the Pittsburgh hockey scene. He’s been there a long time and done his job at a high level, wisecracking every step of the way. This recognition is long overdue.”

Though he long ago kicked the smoking habit, Molinari also is remembered by players in the ’80s and early ’90s for having a cigarette constantly dangling from his mouth – the iconic image of a sports writer straight out of the movies.

“I guess I’ll always remember him trying to get as many puffs as he could from those energy sticks at every opportunity,” laughed former goaltender Frank Pietrangelo. “Rain, shine, freezing or boiling hot, Dave was always one of the last guys on the bus – and his cloud was soon to follow.”

Then, turning serious, Pietrangelo added, “We have great memories. He deserves this honor. We are all excited for him.”

Fast-forward again to the current team, where the feeling is the same.

“Dave has been involved in hockey here in Pittsburgh for so long and is respected by players, fans and so many people around the game,” Sidney Crosby said. “He should be very proud of his work and of this great honor from the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

Author: Tom McMillan

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