Pittsburgh Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins
Founded 1967
Home ice Mellon Arena (formerly Civic Arena)
Based in Pittsburgh
Colours Black, white, silver, gold
League National Hockey League
Head coach Ed Olczyk
General manager Craig Patrick
Owner Mario Lemieux

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a National Hockey League team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Founded: 1967-1968
Arena: Mellon Arena (capacity 17,537), formerly known as the Civic Arena
Current Coach: Ed Olczyk
Uniform colors: Black, white, vegas gold, grey.
Logo design: A penguin skating, holding a hockey stick
Division titles won: 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998
Conference championships won: 1991, 1992
Stanley Cup wins: 2 - 1991, 1992

Franchise history

Main Logo
Missing image

Alternate Logo

Being the location of a very successful American Hockey League franchise and a former NHL team in the Thirties, Pittsburgh was one of the expansion teams added when the NHL doubled in size in 1967. The new teams were hampered by restrictive rules that kept most major talent with the "Original Six", and beyond aging ex-Rangers star Andy Bathgate and hardrock ex-Bruin defenseman Leo Boivin, the first Penguins team was manned by a cast of former minor leaguers. The club nevertheless finished just six points out of first place in the closely fought West Division, but finished out of the playoffs.

Bathgate led the team in scoring, but he and Boivin were soon gone. Despite a handful of decent players such as right wing Ken Schinkel, Keith McCreary, agitator Bryan Watson and goaltender Les Binkley, talent was thin, and the Penguins' record was poor in the early years, missing the playoffs five of their first seven seasons.

Tragedy struck the Penguins in 1970 when rookie center Michel Briere, who finished third in scoring on the team during his only season in the league, was injured in a car crash. He died in 1971 after spending a year in hospital.

For a few years in the mid-Seventies Pittsburgh iced some powerful offensive clubs, led by forwards Syl Apps, Jr., Lowell MacDonald, Jean Pronovost, Rick Kehoe, Pierre Larouche and Ron Schock, and defensemen Ron Stackhouse and Dave Burrows, but the Pens' success was always neutralized by mediocre team defense and poor goaltending, and the club never went far in the playoffs.

By the early Eighties Pittsburgh had Kehoe, star defenseman Randy Carlyle, prolific scorers Paul Gardner and Mike Bullard and little else. The team had the league's worst record in both the 1983 and 1984 seasons. But in the 1984 draft Pittsburgh acquired wunderkind Mario Lemieux, who would become one of the great players in NHL history. After four more years out of the playoffs, Lemieux led the league in scoring in 1988-1989 and the Penguins had given him a supporting cast for the first time, with superstar defenseman Paul Coffey coming from the Edmonton Oilers, roleplayer Bob Errey and high scoring Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown and John Cullen. The team made the playoffs, where they lost in the second round to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux

In 1990-1991, the Penguins reached the top. They drafted star Czech right winger Jaromir Jagr, and through the 1990s, Jagr and Lemieux were two of the league's biggest scoring threats. Add that to Stevens and Coffey, up-and-coming Mark Recchi, star center Ron Francis (acquired in a major trade with the Hartford Whalers) and the goaltending of Tom Barasso, and the Penguins became the league's best team, crushing the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup finals. The following season, the team lost coach Bob Johnson to cancer, and Scotty Bowman took over as coach. Under the legendary Bowman, they repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Cancer nearly dealt the Penguins a double whammy in 1993. Not only were they reeling from Johnson's death, Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. His comeback only two months after the diagnosis was one of the league's greatest "feel-good" stories of all time. Despite the difficulties the team faced, Pittsburgh finished with a 56-21-7 record, winning the franchise's first and only Presidents' Trophy, as the team with the most points in the regular season. Despite their strong play in the regular season, the team was upset in the second round of the playoffs by the New York Islanders.

The Penguins continued to be a formidable team through the rest of the 1990s, but it came with a price. They had paid so much for their talent, they almost went bankrupt, and it took Lemieux (who retired in 1997) to take over the team in bankruptcy court -- having been owed many millions in deferred salary from his playing days and so was a principal creditor -- and prevent it from moving to Portland, Oregon. Costs proved a barrier to retaining promising young goaltender Patrick Lalime, who left after a single season and subsequently became a star for the Ottawa Senators. Lemieux shocked the hockey world by deciding to come back in late 2000 and led the Penguins into the 2001 playoffs, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Still, the Penguins needed to cut costs. They did so in a big way by dealing Jagr to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001 for a song. The absence of Jagr proved devastating to the Penguins, as in 2002 they missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Further difficulties on and off the ice saw them trade fan favourite Alexei Kovalev the next season.

2003 was expected to be a rebuilding year for the Penguins, acquiring first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury in the NHL Entry Draft and the hiring of new head coach (and former Penguin and commentator) Eddie Olczyk. Cost restrictions made the signing of Fleury rather tense. Fleury showed resolve by his excellent goaltending, and although the Penguins continued with the worst NHL record, Fleury showed that he could shrug off hard shots from some of the league's best players. However more troubles besieged the Penguins when Lemieux suffered a hip injury early in the season. Months later it was determined that he would sit the rest of the season out to recover. The Pens then traded away star Martin Straka to the Los Angeles Kings and later had to send Fleury back down to his junior league team due to further money problems.

In the summer of 2004, the Penguins lost forward Aleksey Morozov, who decided to sign with the Russian league in the light of the impending lockout this season. However, the Penguins managed to re-sign one of their biggest fan favorites and former stars, Mark Recchi.

With the 2004-2005 season locked out, several Penguins still signed to the AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Penguins played in the minors, while players such as Aleksey Morozov and Lasse Pirjetä honed their talents in the elite European and Russian leagues.

Players of note

See also

Hall of Famers

Current stars

Not to be forgotten

Retired numbers

External links

National Hockey League
Current Teams : Anaheim | Atlanta | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | NY Islanders | NY Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | San Jose | St. Louis | Tampa Bay | Toronto | Vancouver | Washington
Trophies and Awards: Stanley Cup | Prince of Wales | Clarence S. Campbell | Presidents' Trophy | Art Ross | Bill Masterton | Calder | Conn Smythe | Hart | Norris | King Clancy | Lady Byng | Lester B. Pearson Award | Rocket Richard | Plus/Minus | Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award | Jennings | Vezina
Related Articles: AHL | ECHL | WHA | World Cup

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