Thank you for being a friend
“We know that hockey is where we live. Where we can best meet to overcome pain, wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time in between games.” – Fred Shero
For the last half of a century, Mellon Arena was where we lived; where we could best meet and overcome all of those terrible things that Fred Shero talked about in the above quote.
Growing up, as I prepared to graduate high-school and head to college, life was just a place where I spent time outside of Mellon Arena.
I wanted to draw up a big post about Game 7 and the Penguins elimination from the post-season. Instead, I felt like it was more pertinent to talk about the old Mellon and what an impact she had on all of the fans.
The one thing about the Mellon I’ll never forget is the smell. When you walked in, especially in the summer, you were blasted right in the face with this combination of dampness, nacho cheese, and hockey. It’s really indescribable.
My fondest memories from Mellon Arena come from the 2003-era “X-Generation.” No one cared about the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the people that did were there as die hards. In the wake of some of the worst seasons in team history, I had a religious zealot-like fanatisicsm for the team. I was really coming into my own as a fan and living and dying by box scores.
I spent a lot of time in half-empty arenas as a student rush ticket holder (back when you could pick the ticket up the day before the game). I sat with my friends Zack, Danny and Carey watching a lot of bad hockey, but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. Those were the best times in my life. It helped me appreciate what happened after that even more.
My fondest memories of Mellon Arena?
December 23, 2002. Mario Lemieux scored directly off of the faceoff at 13:10 of the 3rd period against the Buffalo Sabres. I’ll never forget that. We were in the student rush section (right behind the goaltender in what is now B32), and Mario banked a puck in, unassisted, directly off of the faceoff. It was one of those “only Mario” moments that defined his superstar career.
October 18, 2003. Rico Fata scored at 11:31 of the third period to cap a 4-3 comeback victory against the Detroit Red Wings that gave the Penguins their first win under Head Coach Ed Olzyck.
Obviously, the moments get a little more intense after that: visits to the Eastern Conference finals, Stanley Cup finals, huge rivalry games. But those two will be solidified in my brain as the times where life became a place that we spent time in between games.
Hockey became our lifeblood. What we ate, drank and slept. We talked about prospects like Max Talbot and Colby Armstrong envisioning them in these huge scoring roles. We knew that things were bad, but that Craig Patrick was positioning us in a great position to reap the rewards of a new collective bargaining agreement.
We’ll forge new memories as we head across the street to the Consol Energy Center. We’ll have a new place where we can best meet to ovecome pain, wrong, and death. A new place to spend time away from that boring thing called life.
We’ll have leg room, padded seats, a huge LED screen, a lower roof for louder noise, an additional 2,000 fans, but nothing will ever or could ever replace that musk of the old Igloo.