Back in March, after a buddy and I ventured to the Prudential Center and watched the Penguins dispatch New Jersey 2-0 to secure a playoff berth, I joked with him that if the Pens made it to the Stanley Cup finals we should max out our credit cards to get to a game in Pittsburgh.
Two months later, we found ourselves in section C-19 of Mellon Arena attending Game 3 of the Stanley Cup. The fact that we would be attending a Cup final game featuring our favorite team didn't really hit us until we made our way to "The Igloo" a few hours before they dropped the puck. From then on, we were like Homer Simpson when he dreamed about visiting the "Land of Chocolate" (video).
We explored the downtown area around Mellon Arena during the afternoon on Wednesday, and every single office building and storefront window has some sort of Penguins paraphernalia adorning it. Whether it was a "Let's Go Pens" sign or a poster of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the city was pumped up for the series.
Here's some photos of our day in Pittsburgh ...
Walking towards Mellon Arena, you can't miss it. The huge dome protrudes into the sky and resembles one very large boob.
Just outside the building is the famous lawn, which you've probably seen during one of the broadcasts of Penguin games during the playoffs. By 6 p.m., there wasn't a seat to be found on the lawn and some people had resorted to setting up their lawn chairs on the surrounding sidewalk, just to get a chance to watch the game on the big screen.
Legendary TSN personality Bob McKenzie emerged literally from the trees and made his way towards PenStation, the team store. Surely, he was hoping to pick up a pair of Penguin Crocs or one of those Fender Flair purses that Greg introduced us to not long ago.
Continuing our exploration outside of "The Igloo," we bumped into former Penguin and Hockey Hall of Famer and current NHL Network analyst, Larry Murphy. Sadly, he was in a hurry to do a spot and could not take a picture with me. We did try and thank him for the "Murphy Dump," but I don't think he was paying any attention.
From there, a crowd began gathering along the overpass near the lawn. Down below was the Penguins players' parking lot and some of the team had begun to arrive to the cheers of fans.
Obligatory Evgeni Malkin man-crush photo.
I promise you this says "Drove 6 hours for this. let's go pens! -sean." I tried pimping Puck Daddy, but the text-message Jumbotron overlord was not having any of it.
Our seats were just under an overhang, so a lot of my photos inside the arena came out a little dark. Not too far behind me where the "standing room only" seats that had limited views if you tried to see the action down the other end of the ice.
Here are the Red Wings preparing to fail, and as you can see, the beginnings of the "White Out".
Scotty Bowman dropped the ceremonial first puck. I think Mr. Bowman had a prior engagement to get to as he basically dropped the puck and left the ice before the PA announcer could even finish announcing his name.
It was too intense of a game for me to take pictures during the action, so I leave you with this beautiful picture of the scoreboard after the final buzzer.
What to expect in Game Four The only thing for sure is that Mellon Arena will be loud. I've never been to an arena that was louder than "The Igloo" on Wednesday night. Fans during the first period had a nervous, anxious feeling through the first 17 minutes of play. Once Sidney Crosby slipped the opening goal past Chris Osgood, the roof almost blew off.
Overall, Mellon Arena does show its 47 years. The fact that some sections of the arena have limited viewing is a no-no in this day and age, with the way tickets are priced.
All the news about the ice conditions sure are true. Before warm-ups, the Zamboni drive must have done 15-20 laps around the ice. I thought the thing was going to break down again.
Overall, it was a fun experience in Pittsburgh. There's an energy in that city right now and a true love affair between the people there and the team. It'll be interesting to see if the upswing that the Penguins franchise is currently on can continue over the next few years as general manager Ray Shero and his staff try and keep the team together.