Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mellon Memories - Good Times

I know a lot of blogs have people submit their memories of the Civic Arena/Mellon Arena/Igloo because of it being the last year for the old lady. Originally I was not going to do anything like this because a lot of sites were doing it and I didn't want to seem repetitive. I have since had a change of heart and feel that it is only good to maybe give people even more avenues to what the Mellon Arena has meant to them.

So here is what we have. Send in your best/worst and everything in between memories of the Mellon Arena. This does not have to be just Penguin games but it can be from any avenue. You can send them into and I will periodically be putting them up on the site as they roll in. Just like the rest of the people try to keep the language so that most can read these. Thanks guys and I look forward to reading and sharing your personal feelings and experiences.

Today's submission is from Dan of the Unsportsmanlikes

My name is Dan, I'm 25 and from Pittsburgh, and I have been a huge fan of all Pittsburgh sports my whole life. These are some of my memories from Mellon Arena

In chronological order:

-The game before the All-Star break on January 1, 2001, three friends and I drove down to Pittsburgh for Pens student rush tickets against the Flyers when we were juniors in high school. Upon finding the game sold out, we scalped tickets we were assured were good for $55 apiece. The ended up being in the last row of section E30, where the F balcony hangs overhead and you can't see the scoreboard without bending over. Mario Lemieux opened the scoring, then the Pens promptly gave up five goals and got flattened 5-1. We cursed section E30 the entire ride home, and sadly it would not be the last time I sat there.

-The next game was also at home against the Flyers, my seats were about 10 rows behind the net, and the Pens won 9-4. Alexei Kovalev scored a hat trick in front of a sellout crowd, the Flyers pulled their goalie before putting him back in later, and the place rocked like nothing else I've ever seen. How many hockey games can you say you've been to where the crowd chanted "We Want 10"?

-December 23, 2002. Mario Lemieux scores a goal off the face-off against the Buffalo Sabres in the third period after making a $6,600 bet with Mark Madden that he could do it. Madden, of course, promptly paid up.

-March 17, 2002. The NCAA Men's Basketball tournament's first weekend came to Mellon Arena and I somehow scored tickets for the Sunday round of 32 games. I got to see Pitt and that great defense choke the life out of Cal, 63-50 and also saw a fantastic game between UCLA and Cincinnati that went to double overtime and saw UCLA win 105-101. The tournament hasn't been back since.

-February 18, 2003, Pens-Oilers. Just a few days after the Kovalev trade/dump that broke my heart, I score student rush tickets in awesome seats in B3. Lemieux sprung newcomer Rico Fata on a breakaway late in a tie game on which he missed the net. A pissed off Lemieux took matters into his own hands and blasted a howitzer on a power play in overtime to win the game and show Fata how a finisher does it best.

-March 18, 2003, Pens-Red Wings. The first game that made me hate the Wings. I was stunned by how many of their fans were in our building, pissed when an octopus made its way to the ice in a loss that night. We all know where it's gone from there.

-April 4, 2004 Pens-Capitals. The final game of the regular season for both clubs that had been battling for last place in the NHL and the best chance at winning the right to draft Alexander Ovechkin in the lottery. Somehow the Pens locked up last place in the game before and thus the crowd could enjoy cheering their loudest to beat the hated Caps without fear of losing the best shot at Ovechkin. The Pens won the game, and Eddie Olcyzk gave a fantastic, heartfelt speech afterward to thank the crowd that was almost all diehards. The Pens still lost the lottery drawing, giving the Caps Ovechkin but the Penguins Evgeni Malkin. I wouldn't have it any other way.

-December 8, 2005. This was the first time I was going to see Sidney Crosby in person, but my anticipation was softened a week or so before the game when Mario came down with a heart condition that eventually forced his retirement. The game was awful as the Pens had only 11 shots through two periods, they ended up losing 5-0, and Crosby questioned the team's effort after the game. During the game it was obvious the Pens had quit on Olcyzk. He was fired before the month was out.

-March 13, 2007. Three buddies and I got standing room only tickets for a game against Buffalo, who seemed to bring almost as many fans with them as the Pens did. Both teams sat atop the Eastern Conference. That day, Mario had finalized a deal to build the Consol Energy Center and assure that the team would stay in Pittsburgh right where it belongs. He even came out onto the ice before the game to tell us so. The Pens and Sabres played one hell of a game, and the Pens won in a shootout in which Marc-Andre Fleury made one of the most ridiculous saves I've ever seen live. That was one hell of a night to be in the building.

-May 9, 2008. My first Pens playoff game, game 1, Eastern Conference Finals against the Flyers. The Pens won, but the best part was Malkin's goal after he got absolutely pulverized behind the Philadelphia net on the forecheck. The Flyers broke up the ice, and while Malkin was stumbling back toward the play Sergei Gonchar intercepted a pass and sent it flying down toward Malkin. On a breakaway and seemingly not knowing what to do through the cobwebs, Malkin BLASTED a slap shot past Martin Biron and brought the house down. It is my favorite goal I have ever seen live outside of Sidney Crosby's shootout goal in the Winter Classic.

In general, I will miss the Mellon for the countless other games I have seen there that I can't remember either because I was just nine years old at my first game or because I had a few too many beers once I got (slightly) older, and for everything else in between. I will never forget the numerous stars that myself and other Pens fans were treated to on a nightly basis. I will remember the scores of highlights and tributes that took place there, none better than the night Mario came back against Toronto in 2000. I'll fondly remember the "Cotton Candy Eeeer!" guy (whom I first met at Three Rivers in 1997), the crazy pot-bellied beer vendor/diehard fan who won't pour you one if an odd-man rush is taking place, the always lonely and customer-less girls at the lemonade and roasted nut stands in the main concourse, and the awful, foot-like smell that wafts up from the chili dog/french fry place by PenStation. I'll even miss the crammed seats, the foul troughs in the men's room, the death-defying climb up the way-too-steep steps going up to F level, the stupid giant Dreyfus sign on the roof, and the mini-blimps that always drop their goodies what seems like just one seat away!

Lastly, the quintessential memory I will take with me is that moment of thrill of hearing John Barbaro calling a big goal, especially one by Mario Lemieux. Is there anything better than standing there, jumping up and down, high-fiving strangers and screaming your head off for half a minute, only to then join in with Barbaro and 17,000 others and shout in unison, "MA-rioooo LEMIEUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUX!" That is what a sports fan lives for, that moment of release right there that you know everyone else is sharing. Do yourself a favor and watch this YouTube video on him here.


  1. Me memories at Mellon Arena are sort of mixed. Personally I didn't care much for the arena itself. I liked how it was shaped like a dome but could never quite get past the smell inside, the urine "tubs" in the bathrooms, cramped concourses, stained seats etc... but I do have memories from going down there.

    My memories weren't always positive ones, but memories for sure. I was done there in 98 when the Pens got eliminated from the playoffs by the Maple Leafs. I was unfortunate enough to be seated right in the middle of about 30 Maple Leafs fans. Everytime I went to a game it always seemed as if either Jagr or Lemiuex was out. I could never catch a break :)

    I've seen plent of concerts down there from getting tickets to be in the "pit" for Metallica in 1991 to getting what I thought would be bad seats behind the stage for Page And Pant in 1995 whichh ended up being great seats since we got high fives from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as they came off the stage.

    As it is with any place that's been around for a long time, you form memories with the events that you saw when you went there. With Mellon Arena being around for this long, everyone has a ton of those memories. However, just like Three Rivers Stadium, I'll be glad to see Mellon Arena gone. It served it's time and purpose, but I can't wait to get into a new arena with wider concourses, a fresher "smell", wider aisles, comfortable seats, cup holders and other modern amenities.

    In the end R.I.P. Mellon Arena. The memories will always be with each and every one of us