Pittsburgh sports fans have always enjoyed tough, physical defense from their local teams. Perhaps no Pittsburgh Penguin personified this image more over the past 20 years than former defenseman Ulf Samuelsson.
It didn’t take Samuelsson long after arriving to realize what an intelligent and special group of people Penguins fans are.
“I remember when I first got here…I was playing my usual game and all of the sudden people were cheering when I was hitting people left and right and making good defensive plays,” reminisced Samuelsson on Wednesday afternoon after the Phoenix Coyotes, with whom he is now an assistant coach, conducted their morning skate at Mellon Arena. “There was certainly a different appreciation of that here than in anywhere else I played, both before and after.”
Also different from his other cities were the two championships he helped the Penguins gather. Acquired from the Hartford Whalers on March 4, 1991, Samuelsson, center Ron Francis and defenseman Grant Jennings proved to be the missing links the Penguins needed to claim back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and ’92. In a career full of great memories, those stand out above all others.
“I have so many good memories, but I think the Cup wins, I remember them clearly,” he said. “Even though they occurred on the road in Minnesota and Chicago, they are at the top of my list.”
Samuelsson, who recorded 94 points (11G-83A) in 277 regular-season games for Pittsburgh, had some fond memories of the building he called home for four-and-a-half seasons.
A lasting memory for Samuelsson, who was inducted into the Penguins’ Hall of Fame in 2003, was the goal he scored in overtime against Hall-of-Fame netminder Patrick Roy, then playing for the Montreal Canadiens, on April 7, 1993, securing the 4-3 overtime victory, allowing the Penguins to tie the National Hockey League record with their 15th consecutive victory.
“I remember (that goal) clearly. Larry Murphy and myself were leading the rush. Everyone was saying ‘what are those two guys doing up there.’ Then we got the goal. That was a great memory for me.”
Speaking of memories, Samuelsson has only positive ones of his time spent in the ‘Burgh.
“This is really an underrated city,” he said. “I think the people here are friendly. I had a great time here. The quality of life is good here. In general, I think it’s a great town to play in.”
As the Penguins get set to close Mellon Arena at the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign, Samuelsson has one wish for the Consol Energy Center being built across the street.
“When you get (on the ice at Mellon Arena), you still get a great feel (of the fans). I hope they preserve that in the new building.”
Samuelsson will have an interest in the seats at Consol Energy Center because he hopes to watch his son, Philip, a second-round selection (61st overall) of the Penguins this past summer, play there some day.
“That would be nice if he could make it,” the elder Samuelsson said of his son.
Ulf Samuelsson said that Philip is enjoying his time so far as a freshman defenseman at Boston College. Philip Samuelsson
is impressed with how the Golden Eagles conduct their business.
“He knows from watching me how to train, so he said they know how to do things up there,” Ulf Samuelsson said.
Ulf believes the time was right for Philip to move away from his father and make his own mark on the game.
“We spent so much time together I think it is time for him to go on his own now,” Samuelsson said.
As Ulf Samuelsson did for Penguins fans at Mellon Arena, someday Philip Samuelsson
can provide memories for fans at Consol Energy Center.