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Penguins History
The History of hockey in Pittsburgh dates from 1925, when the Pittsburgh Pirates (no relation with the current Iron City baseball team), entered the NHL, at that time with 10 teams. The team, who started playing some weeks after the start of the 25-26 season, were not that successful. Then in the 29-30 season, the Pirates moved to Philadelphia and became the Philadelphia Quakers. That move didn't mean success, and after a 4-36-4 record in 1932, the Quakers retired from the League.
The 1967 season marked a very important date in the history of the NHL. For the first time in some decades, the league would promote an expansion, which meant the end of the Original Six Era. The league went from 6 straight to 12 teams.
On June 5, 1967, the NHL awarded franchises to the cities of Los Angeles, Minnesota, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Now, the Minnesota are playing in Dallas, the Oakland team is past (but California has 3 teams now), the LA Kings and Blues have limited success (never managed to win a Cup), and Philly and Pittsburgh are the 2 franchises with Stanley Cup success (each one with 2 back to back rings, Philly in 74-75 and the Pens in 91-92).
But in these 30+ Years of Penguin hockey, not everything was winning teams and winning seasons. The Pens struggled for quite some time, suffering from bad mangaging moves to heartbreaking losses of games and personnel.
How can one forget the loss of Michel Briere, the first Penguins superstar, a promising player, with an outstanding rookie season, who died from injuries suffered in a car accident, in 1971? Or the loss of then GM Baz Bastien, also died in a car accident, in 1983? And no one in hockey can forget the death of Bob Johnson, the coach who led the guys to the first Cup, who passed away in november of 1991...
The first Penguins game was not the way fans wanted, but surely the way most would have imagined. Against the most traditional franchise in NHL history, the Montreal Canadiens, the Pens made their debut with a 2-1 loss. But two days later, the Penguins gave their fans the first taste of happiness, winning the also expansion team from St. Louis, the Blues.
But it took 3 seasons for Pittsburgh to have a post-season game. After finishing 10th and 11th in the first 2 seasons, in 1970 the Penguins made the 7th best record, and clinched its very first playoff berth. And for an expansion team they did quite well. They swept the Oakland Seals 4-0, but lost 4-2 to the Blues in the Semi-finals (the Blues eventually lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins that year).
And that way the Penguins went, some years making the post-season, others finishing earlier. That went on until the 1982 season. After this years the Pens returned to the playoffs only in 1989, missed the 1990, and since 1991 have always made the play-offs. Of course, in 1991 and 1992 the Pens made it all the way to the title.
The 1983-1984 season was a major turning point in the Penguins organization. After finishing with the worst record in team history, the Pens earned the rights to grab the #1 pick in the 84 Draft, which was known by everyone that it was going to be a young Canadian player who took the Laval Voisins, a Quebec junior team, by storm. This guy was shattering all records of junior hockey, and in his last season there, he smashed an unbelievable record of 133 goals, 149 assists, and a total of 282 points, 31 more than the previous record of Pierre Larouche (who also played for the Penguins). His name: Mario Lemieux. Indeed, it's still unknown if the Pens were that bad in 84 or if they just "eased" the opponents' job of beating them, just to assure the first pick in the Draft.
With Lemieux on the team, the Pens turned from water to wine, and despite the fact that the team first playoff appearance of the Lemieux Era was only in 1989, it proved to be the spark the team needed to be a Cup contender, besides the fact that with Lemieux on the lineup, fans' average, which was about 6,800 and 8,400 at the Igloo, raised considerably, and then sell outs became even more frequent.
And with a core of talented players that the Penguins collected, the 1991 season brought a Stanley Cup for the city of Pittsburgh for the first time. And in the following year, they did it again, capturing its second (and last so far) Cup.
Now, the Pens are a sure powerhouse in the NHL, with the 1997-98 season the first of the Post Lemieux Era. Mario, that missed lots of games due to inumerous injuries and diseases, decided it was time to hang up the skates. But surely, whenever the outcome, the Penguins are a true playoff contender for years to come. The hard times were left behind, now it's time to rebuild and start another dynasty, as the one in the early 90's.
Now Sidney Crosby is on the team along with all the other bright young stars (Malkin, Staal, Fluery) the future of the team looks good, especially as the building of the new arena has started. It was a little dissappinting at the end of last season with the Penguins losing to the Red Wings, but if that is what these youngsters can do in two years, the rest of the NHL better look out. Well in 2009 they did it, marched start to the stanley cup finals again, and again it was up against the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins took them all the way to game 7 which was in Detroit and then beat them 2-1 in front of a sell out crowd. Keep it up.