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Thursday, May 26, 2011

20th Anniversary of the Penguins First Stanley Cup: Where were you?

This is a day late, but I wanted to get this on the record for posterity.

Yesterday, while driving home and listening to 93.7FM, the question was posed.  What was the most memorable Pittsburgh championship in your mind?

There are so many to choose from.   The 1960 World Series win against the Yankees is up there for sure.  But the memory that stands out the most was 20 years ago, when the Pittsburgh Penguins won their first Stanley Cup against the Minnesota North Stars.   I included an excerpt from a post I did when the Penguins won their last cup in 2009.

I was a sophomore in high school and on May 25th, I was at a graduation party at the Indian Creek Valley Community Center in Indian Head, PA. Now, as a sophomore, one doesn’t expect to be attending a lot of graduation parties for his/her classmates. I was one of those weird cases where I spent a lot more time hanging out with the upperclassmen than my own grade. It was my first high school graduation party for a non relative and it was also my first taste of underage drinking beer at a party.

As kids, we all had our moments of sneaking a drink from our parents’ liquor cabinets or our Dad giving us a sip of beer during a Steelers’ Game, but this was the first real opportunity for me to partake in celebratory libations. I wasn’t even supposed to be driving a car after midnight at this point in my life. Luckily, I got a ride to this party because I was in no shape to drive by the end of the night, or so I thought.

This was 1991, a few years before the availability of big screen viewings of events via LCD projectors and the like. Those kinds of resources were for business meetings and sports bars. I was in a Community Center nestled in the foot hills of Western Pennsylvania. We had car radios to keep us posted on the NHL action. We made as many trips to the cars to get an update as we did the keg to get more beer. By the end of the second period we were all feeling pretty buzzed and our inebriation was directly proportional to our confidence in Pittsburgh winning the series. It was a foregone conclusion that Pittsburgh was going to win this game. After trading wins through the first four games, Pittsburgh picked up momentum in Game Five with a 6-4 win over the North Stars in Pittsburgh. Now all that was needed was another win in Game Six at the Met Center in Minnesota. The Pens were up 7 nothing and it looked hopeless for the North Stars.

Wait?!? Did Jimmy Paek just score? The Korean guy just scored his only goal of the playoffs? Are you kidding me? Scratch that, it was hopeless. No offense to Jimmy, he is one of my favorites and that’s not being condescending. As the first of only two Korean players in the NHL, he is the first Korean to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup and he has his sweater hanging in the Hockey Hall of Fame to honor that. Not bad. You have to respect that.

As I sat in the cab of a friend’s truck and cheered in a drunken state at the sound of the Pens winning their first Stanley Cup, ever, I was given some sobering news. The beer we had been pounding, heavily all night, causing us to run around like jackasses, whooping it up over a hockey game, was non-alcoholic. Immediately, the crowed stopped stumbling and started walking around, normally. A few us tested out our blood alcohol level with a self given, field sobriety test, just to make sure. Throughout this whole evening, we were only drunk on hockey and toasted the winning Pittsburgh Penguins with another cup of O’Douls.

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