May 21—As the 2021 Penguins attempt to fight their way through the first round of this year's NHL playoffs against the New York Islanders, Tuesday will mark the 30th anniversary of the franchise's first championship.
On May 25, 1991, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup by defeating the Minnesota North Stars in Game 6 of the finals by a score of 8-0.
Back in March at "Breakfast with Benz," we gave you a three-part series, flashing back to "The Trade" with the Hartford Whalers. That deal brought future team legends Ron Francis (center) and Ulf Samuelsson (defenseman) to Pittsburgh, along with fellow two-time Cup winner Grant Jennings (defenseman).
We spoke with Francis and Jennings — along with many others — for that series. Now, Samuelsson joins us to share his recollections of that trade, his immediate immersion into the madness of Pittsburgh during the 1991 Cup run and celebrations that ensued.
"The people. How happy they were," Samuelsson said of the team's victory gathering at Point State Park. "How excited we were. (We) just had a real good time coming together as sportspeople and fans as one group."
Samuelsson said it didn't take long for him to figure out that the '91 Penguins were destined for big things after he, Francis and Jennings were acquired from Hartford.
"There were certain pieces missing on that team," Samuelsson said. "That trade really brought in what the Penguins needed at the time. They had a lot of good things going for it. That trade added some stability. Ronny was a world-class player. Me and Grant secured the defense with some stable play. And all the other pieces could continue working. And it really looked like a team quickly."
Francis not only delivered on his reputation of being a great two-way center, but Samuelsson did as well on the blue line. And he acknowledges that the fan base's appreciation and hunger for defense heightened his image as a player.
"The fans of Pittsburgh do appreciate defense in a way that I may not have seen anywhere else up to that point in my career," Samuelsson said. "I remember the first couple games (after the trade) making some good defensive plays. Sliding on a 2-on-1 and breaking it up. And I could hear the crowd. Usually, you don't hear the crowd unless someone scores or there's good passing or a fight or something. They also do like physical play. And I certainly felt the fans liked my style."
Since that first Stanley Cup victory, the Penguins have gone on to win the championship four more times. Samuelsson says he takes pride in being part of the first roster to grab a ring.
"They had a tremendous run with Mario (Lemieux) getting involved in the ownership. It's been a real Cinderella story, that organization, the last 30 years. They have done so many good things. In a small part maybe we helped start it, and they have kept on going. I'm really proud to be a part of that team. (Pittsburgh) will always be a special place to me."
Samuelsson is now an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, who are in the middle of their first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He spoke with us during the regular season and shared many other memories of his time in Pittsburgh, including what the bench was like in Minnesota during that Game 6 blowout of the North Stars to clinch the championship.
We also get into the two brutal Wales Conference Final series against the Boston Bruins in '91 and '92. His hit on Cam Neely in '91. The chaos upon landing in Pittsburgh after the Cup-clinching game. And why Samuelsson may have gone back to Sweden if the trade to Pittsburgh had never occurred.
Listen: Ulf Samuelsson talks about "The Trade" that brought him to Pittsburgh and remembers the 1991 Stanley Cup champions
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.