Saturday, September 18, 2010

Favorite Mellon/Civic Arena Memories and how to properly commemorate the Arena

By Jeff and Greg

Jeff: In an earlier post, Greg and I both agreed with the demolition of the Civic/Mellon Arena now that the Pittsburgh Penguins will call the CONSOL Energy Center home. But that doesn't mean the building won't be missed.

My fondest moment of the Civic/Mellon Arena was Game 3 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. The atmosphere was like nothing I had ever experienced. Making the game even better was the fact it was the first professional sporting event I attended since I came back to Pittsburgh after spending 14 months in Guam. The biggest event I attended on Guam was when the island's men's soccer team beat Macau. Needless to say, Game 3 was a lot bigger than Guam-Macau.

Back to Game 3.

Blog contributor Mike gets some pretty sweet seats from time to time, so four of us went to the game. The crowd was insane throughout the whole game. I had never heard a building get so loud, and I have seen The Who perform live (John Entwistle was still alive, so they were still amazing). Every Pens goal, big hit and clutch save was greeted with thousands of people in white shirts standing and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Of course, the climax of the evening was Gonchar blasting the game-winner late in the third period. Pens fans had seen Gonch wind up so many times over the years, so it seemed like every person in attendance knew the shot was going in. Greg, Mike, Swan and I shared a big man hug that would have been considered gay in any other scenario, but in that situation, it felt right. OK, after typing that, I can see how it sounds gay.

That was my best Civic/Mellon Arena moment.

Honorable mentions:

1). Game 1 of the 1996 Conference Semifinals against the Rangers. I was 11 and trying my damndest to get on the big screen. Needless to say, there was a lot of silly dancing that probably pissed off anyone around me. I guarantee, though, that I had better moves then than that Ginger who dances to "Cotton Eyed Joe" now.

2). The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live. It's not hockey, but it was a religious experience.

3). The first time I saw Weezer live. My girlfriend broke up with me five days before the concert and it was just what a depressed high schooler needed. "Hash Pipe" was the highlight of the night.

I'll now turn it over to Greg.

Greg: The best memory I have of the Mellon Arena is Game 4 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. After destroying the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals I got on the horn to my ticket guy (Mike) to ask him what our chances were of getting to see a Stanley Cup Finals game. He replied that he had no idea where the tickets were going. I knew that he would do whatever he could to get tickets, but I had to take matters into my own hands. I called my brother and told him that we were going to Game 4 and he didn’t have a choice. I bought the tickets on eBay and spent over four times as much as I ever had on a sporting event in my life. It turned out that Mike ended up getting tickets and I got to see Game 3 as well. Don’t get me wrong, Game 3 was a great experience that I enjoyed with some of my closest friends. But I doubt any hockey game I go to in the future will ever top Game 4.

We had tickets in the balcony where the Pens shot on net in the second period. Any diehard Pens fan remembers that period quite well. Up until this point, the script was the same as the year before – down two games to one against Detroit and down by a score of 2-1. Free Candy heads to the sin bin midway through the second period. Huge kill on the way. Malkin steals the puck and heads in on a breakaway with a man all over him. No dice. The entire balcony crowd is standing. Seconds later Talbot feeds Staal the puck at center ice and Staal blows past Rafalski for the biggest goal of his career. Everyone is going crazy. What a shorthanded effort. Two minutes later Malkin makes a great play on the boards and leads a two on one with Sid coming down the left side. If you weren’t standing, you didn’t have a pulse. Geno attempts a pass. It’s broken up, but he sticks with it and gets the second one through. Crosby never gave up on Geno’s pass and buries it. Absolute Bedlam…beer everywhere. You know when a sweet play happens and you high five a random stranger at the game? Everyone was hugging each other. OSGOOD! OSGOOD! OSGOOD! I’ve never yelled so loud in my life. Man did that feel good, but there’s still a lot of hockey left. Four minutes later the Pens still had the momentum going and were dictating the play. Kennedy with a great forecheck to bump Zetterberg off the puck. Kunitz grabs it and finds Crosby on the far side of the ice. Sid shows off his ridiculous vision and pinpoints a pass to Kennedy for the layup. Is this really happening? OSGOOD! OSGOOD! OSGOOD! The rest of the game was a blur, but I will never forget that second period.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Lemieux announces the arena deal
I found a game on the schedule that me and my brother could both make it to because we were on Spring Break, so I bought the tickets before the season started. It ended up being the game after the arena deal was announced and we were both extremely pumped. It looked bleak at times, but 66 got the job done as usual. Everyone was in such a great mood. Not even the constant “Let’s go Buffalo” chants could ruin the atmosphere.

2. 2009 Stanley Cup Finals: Game 3
Jeff described the atmosphere perfectly. No one was scared that the Pens were down two games to none. This was a different team with more experience and grit. Game 3 was also the first playoff game I had ever been to in any sport, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

3. Lemieux gets 600th goal
I think somewhere along the way I pleased the hockey Gods because this was exactly like the arena deal situation. I was ten years old at the time and going through a phase where my favorite player was Pavel Bure. I was still cheering for the Pens, but wanted to see the Russian Rocket in person so for Christmas I asked for tickets to the Canucks game. A week before the game my Dad mentioned to me that Lemieux was closing in on his 600th goal. The rest is history.

We welcome anyone out there to share their own favorite Mellon/Civic Arena memories in the comments.

Now since this glorious arena is about to be demolished in February, many people have wondered how we can appropriately commemorate it. One of our favorite websites, The Pensblog, has backed a fan named Matt and his proposed plan to etch the glass of the CONSOL Energy Center a light shade of gray so that when you look out the window you will see an outline of the Mellon Arena. What a great tribute idea. Keeping the building sounds nice but it’s time has come and this seems like the perfect way to honor the Pittsburgh Penguins only home until this point. If you like this idea you can join the Facebook group to show your support or just spread the word about how this needs to happen. Go Pens.


  1. Greg, Our man hug obviously didn't have the same effect on you as it had on me.

    Another great memory I had was sitting in the arena for about 30 minutes after the game. My dad didn't want to spend that time trying to fight his way out of the parking lot, so we'd stay until they basically kicked us out. Nothing exciting, but quality time spent with my dad is always cool.

  2. Hahaha...I remember it well. It was a great experience and a great game, but game four was when I realized that we were going to win it all. Plus, we were in the club seats for game three. We had an amazing view, but the balcony was ridiculous. Sitting in the balcony at the Mellon Arena is one of the most unique experiences in all of sports because you are literally on top of the play. I prayed for some second period action and I was not disappointed.

  3. You can't tell me that the Gonchar goal leading to an instantaneous/spontaneous group man hug wasn't one of the top 2 moments in your life. It was for me.

    The best moment has to be Pittsburgh-Chicago, Game 7 of 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. Down 1 with seconds remaining in the game, Luc Robitaille gets a breakaway and scores the game-tying goal to send it into...Sudden Death! Off the top of my head, the games that stick out that I went to.

    One is the home opener for Crosby's rookie year and seeing his first NHL goal against the Bruins. The place was electric even though it was an ugly (if I remember correctly) PP goal.

    Malkin's hat trick against Carolina in the 2009 conference finals was simply unbelievable as well. Seeing Cam Ward lose his liquor licence was just amazing.

    A personal favorite of mine was Pens-Maple leafs where Malkin got his first NHL hat trick. AND in the stands, a Leafs fan tried to pick a fight with a Pens fan in the row behind me, and the Pens fan ended up knocking the guy out with one punch. Blood everywhere. Good stuff.

    One that has nothing to do with the game, itself, was former Penguin Andre Roy getting a fighting major when he was with Tampa. The teenager sitting on the glass for the penalty box starting yelling at Roy. Roy turs around and tells the kid "You're a homosexual and you work at Subway". The ref hears this, pull Roy out of the box and sends him to the locker room.

    One more and then I'll shut up. Crosby's diving/sliding on the ice goal agains Tampa Bay a couple seasons ago as the second period expired is one of my favorite regular season moments. The individual effort was so unbelievable that the atmosphere was still electric through the entire intermission and were still going crazy for him a couple minutes into the 3rd.

    Great post guys. Looking forward to some great memories in the new home too and sharing them with you guys.

  4. haha i will always remember that game 4 too. as i recall it, right after that stall shorty came a few minutes in to the second and the row in front of us just came back with fresh beers. as soon as stall buried it everyone jumped up and i just smelled beer. like a strong whiff of beer everywhere. then i look down, my ice times is soaked, and the three guys in front of us look like they just got out of the shower there heads were so wet. haha whatever after we high five i think i started rubbing there beer soaked heads (possibly for good luck) we all celebrate then take our seats with our hearts pumping and momentum filling the arena. then malkin and crosby make a break for it and we did it all over again like 3-4 min later.

  5. How has no one mentioned the filming of 'Sudden Death' with JCVD....had to be one of the greatest non sports moments of the stadium... unfortunately I was not there to witness it

  6. Mike actually was referencing "Sudden Death" in his comment.

    It would be nice if they made a sequel and actually had a helicopter blow up in the arena. It could be part of the demolition.