September 19, 2010
During a public open house at the new Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh Penguins fan Matt Filip entered through a Verizon-sponsored gate and gazed at an image greeting fans through large window panes: Mellon Arena, a.k.a. the Igloo, which had been the team's home since 1967.
Filip savored the view, turned to his brother and said, "Dude, they should just etch this right here." And a movement was born.
"My thought was, we have so many people in this city who want to keep the building, and obviously they already said they're going to blow it up. If they want some reverence, we gotta figure something else out," said Filip, who felt the vista from inside the new arena was perfect. "It's almost like they already had this in mind. But apparently they didn't."
Last Friday, he mentioned his idea on Twitter. Soon after, The Pensblog, the irreverent and influential Penguins fan site, threw its support behind the idea "800 percent". The story was picked up by Hockey Independent, on radio via 105.9 The X host Mark Madden and on 93.7 The Fan.
A Facebook page was created to chronicle the campaign, and had over 900 followers in its first 24 hours. "It's gotten a ton more support than I ever expected," said Filip.
The clock is ticking on Mellon Arena's existence. The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority voted last Thursday to demolish the Igloo in a controversial decision. It's an arena that was the center of the hockey world in Pittsburgh; a place where, warts and all, memories were made and devotion to hockey was born for generations of fans.
Which isn't to say Filip isn't happy with the new barn. "It's amazing, but it misses that old-style feel of the Igloo," he said. "I like it. I've sat in the highest seat in there and it's amazing compared to Mellon, where if you were in the top rows on the ends you couldn't see the scoreboard."
No one would argue Mellon was perfect. That it wasn't is an essential part of its lasting legacy. In a way, a glass etching would be an ironic tribute: a flawed building featured on something whose imperfections are methodically eliminated in its creation. But it also offers a sense of permanence; that no matter what's built on those grounds, the Igloo will, via this tribute, always be there, too.
It's a great idea, worthy of support. Knowing the Penguins, perhaps the most fan-friendly team in the NHL, they'll at least consider it.