Team Profile: The Pittsburgh Penguins

Oh wow, Italia is posting something, wow, amazing…

Ok, onto the profile:

Boasting one of the Leagues cutest logos, this season’s Stanley Cup Champions have certainly had a tumultuous history with several years of financial instability that threatened to cause the team to fold or relocate. Luckily, each time, the Penguins have managed to turn things around, with the help of a couple of superstar players…

Here’s the overview:

  • Located in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1967
  • Located in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Arena: Consol Energy Center
  • Owner(s): Ronald Burkle, Mario Lemieux
  • GM: Jim Rutherford
  • Head Coach: Mike Sullivan
  • Captain: Sidney Crosby
  • Minor League Affiliate: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
  • Stanley Cups: 4

And here are some tidbits about their history:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the original expansion teams that increased the size of the NHL from 6 teams to 12.

Pittsburgh had previously been the home of the NHL Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the American Hockey League’s Hornets. A large group of businessmen, including H.J. Heinz (yes, of the condiment company), and Pittsburgh Steeler owner. Art Rooney, lobbied for the return of the NHL to Pittsburgh. They petitioned votes from owners of the Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings to ensure that Pittsburgh would be included in the expansion.

When they were officially created, the franchise had to pay the Red Wings an indemnification fee since they owned the Pittsburgh Hornets.

A contest was held to determine the nickname of the new team, with Penguins winning. The name was inspired by the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, nicknamed the “Igloo”.

The colors were originally powder blue, navy blue, and white, but were changed in the 80’s to match the gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers and MLB Pittsburgh Pirates. The new gold and black color scheme faced protest by the Boston Bruins since the colors were (are) very similar. The Bruins claimed to own the right to the colors, but Pittsburgh argued that gold is the official color of the City of Pittsburgh. That, plus the fact that the old Pittsburgh Pirates used uniforms based on official Pittsburgh Police uniforms, led to them being granted permission to use the color scheme.

In their early seasons, they found very little playoff success. Due to the financial strain, there were rumors that the team would relocate. Heading into the 1984 Draft, the Penguins appeared to purposely weaken their team in order to finish last in the rankings, below the New Jersey Devils, to draft Mario Lemieux first over all. Devils were not happy about this to say the least…

The arrival of Lemieux immediately improved the team, but it took several years before they made the playoffs consistently.

In 1990 the Pens drafted the legend, Jaromir Jagr. He was the first Czechoslovakian player to be drafted into the NHL without first needing to defect to the West. He and Lemieux became the faces of the franchise. And soon after, they won back to back Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992.

jagr-lemieux
But like, that hair….? (Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Penguins were the first NHL team to visit the White House after winning the Stanley Cup in 1991.

Despite being diagnosed with Hodgkins disease and missing several games of the 1993 season, Lemieux won the Art Ross Trophy.

In 1997, Lemieux announced his retirement due to health issues, as well as concerns about NHL officiating. His departure caused the Penguins to enter financial instability yet again. The owners had asked players to defer their salaries to help pay bills, but when it came time to pay up, the organization was forced to file for bankruptcy. Mario Lemieux then stepped up and offered to buy the team. The organization owed him the most in differed salary, already making him the teams’ largest individual creditor. Essentially, the salary was converted into enough equity to give him control over the team. He and Ronald Burkle saved the team by doing this.

In 2000, Lemieux became the first NHL owner that also played for the team when he announced his return as an active player.

The team’s decline, both on the ice and in the front office, led to them being able to draft goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury first overall in 2003. Then in 2004 they drafted Evgeni Malkin 2nd overall (the Capitals selected Alexander Ovechkin first).

Still the team struggled. One of the major issues being that their old Civic Arena was in need of serious remodeling. Lemieux attempted to convince the city of Pittsburgh to build a new hockey arena, but since they were doing so poorly, the city refused. Lemieux at this point considered relocating the team to Kansas City, MO.

The 2004-2005 NHL Season was cancelled due to the NHL lockout. The financial struggles of the Penguins and the Ottawa Senators and their lack of resolutions were one of the reasons of the lockout.

The 2005 Entry Draft order was set by a lottery, conducted behind closed doors. The result was Pittsburgh getting to pick first overall…which became Sidney Crosby. And everyone lived happily ever after.

But really, while Crosby had an amazing debut season which led to increased overall attendance, the team continued to post a losing record. In 2006 Lemieux announced his retirement for the second time, but this time permanently due to his irregular heartbeat.

In 2007, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership group, publicly announced that an agreement had been reached among the parties to build the long sought arena. The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility, the Consol Energy Center, guaranteed that the Penguins would remain in the city of Pittsburgh. Following the announcement of the plan, the Lemieux ownership group announced that they no longer had plans to sell the team.

In 2009 they won their 3rd Stanley Cup by defeating the Detroit Red Wings (the Red Wings had beat them in the final the year prior).

And then of course they just won the Stanley Cup after posting a terrible first half of their season which led to Mike Johnston being replaced as head coach by Mike Sullivan. They had also acquired Phil “The Thrill” Kessel during the previous off-season, and added Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin to complete the “HBK” line that dominated during the playoffs. Trevor Daley, former Dallas Star, was also an integral part of the playoff run, as were the emergence of young rookie players such as Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust.

pascal-dupuis-061216-getty-ftr-usjpg_t68n6gem90ya1hpjn2tlrn307

Notable Players:

  • Mario Lemieux
  • Jaromir Jagr
  • Michel Briere
  • Randy Carlyle
  • Paul Gardner
  • Kevin Stevens
  • Bryan Trottier
  • Sergei Gonchar
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Evgeni Malkin
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Pascal Dupuis
  • Kris Letang
  • Phil Kessel

I personally love the Penguins. They are my second favorite team by a large margin (although the margin between them and the Dallas Stars as my absolute favorite team is quite large…). I am very proud of them for winning the Cup, considering all they had to overcome to get to that point (seeing Dupuis skate onto the ice in his uniform for the last team still brings me to tears). I wish them the best this next season, unless they are facing the Stars, of course…

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