Pittsburgh Penguins

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 04:40

History of Pittsburgh Penguins

Information about the NHL team Pittsburgh Penguins.


Pittsburgh Penguins are a professional ice hockey team based in Pennsylvania and are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Pittsburgh Penguins: the beginning

The Pittsburgh Penguins were a franchise of the National Hockey League in 1967 as part of the league’s expansion from six to twelve teams. Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cup Championships; the first one was in 1991 and the second time was in 1992.

The team’s name “penguin” was inspired by the venue where the team is going to play, the “Igloo” which refers to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

At the beginning, the Pittsburgh Penguins were composed of minor leaguers with Jack Riley as their first general manager. During their first season, the team also missed some playoffs. However, the team showed its potential in 1967, by becoming the first team among the expansion teams to beat an original six team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite having defeated the Blackhawks, the team was not really strong enough. Proof to this was the fact that the team missed the playoffs in five of their seven seasons of existence. In 1970, the team experienced a great loss when a promising rookie center had a car accident and died after a year. The loss was compensated by the team’s entry for the first time to the playoffs, making their way to the Western Conference Finals; unfortunately, the team was defeated by the St. Louis Blues. In the 1973-74 seasons, Jack Riley was fired as the team’s general manager and was replaced by Jack Button who traded for Bob Kelley, Ab Demarco Jr., Steve Durbano, and Bob Paradise who contributed in improving the performance of the team.

Difficult times

In 1975, the team was threatened into bankruptcy when creditors demanded payments for the team’s debts. Thanks to the intervention of a group, the team was saved. Later, the position of general manager was rendered to Baz Bastien, a former coach and general manager of AHL Hornets. Again, in the 1977-78 season, the team missed their chance for the playoffs when the team’s offense lagged. Another factor that made the 70s and 80s seasons difficult times for the team was Bastien’s wrong move to trade for players whose heydays were already gone.

In 1980, the Penguins changed the team colors from blue and white to black and gold as an honor to Pittsburgh's other sports teams, the Steeler and the Pirates, and also to the flag of Pittsburgh. The decade was started with some new players such as the defenseman Randy Carlyle and excellent scorers such as Paul Gardner and Mike Bullard. The 1982 season marked the team’s last playoff appearance until the 1989 season. The difficult times again arrived in the 1983-84 season, when the team garnered the worst record in the league and when financial problems again threatened the existence of the team. Hope resurfaced when the team acquired the French Canadian Mario Lemieux.

Resurging of hope

In the late 80s, the team traded for excellent defenseman Paul Coffey from Edmonton Oilers and brought other excellent players to help Lemieux. The team made its playoffs but lost to Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, hope was short–lived when Lemieux missed 21 games in the 1989-90 season because of a herniated disk in his back. Like before, the Pittsburgh Penguins were denied the playoffs.

Luck proved to be in Pittsburgh Penguins’ side in the 1990-91 season. The team drafted Czech right-winger, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr paired with Lemieux, plus the arrival of other new players, and earned the team the honor to be considered as the most valuable team in the league. For one, the team defeated the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. Because of this, the Pittsburgh Penguins were invited to the White House to meet with President Bush. This event made the Penguins the first NHL team to visit the White House. The next season, the Pittsburgh Penguins succeeded in defending their title as Stanley Cup Champions by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks with Scotty Bowman as coach.

Despite the team’s success, the seasons in the 1990s were sad ones for the members of the team because of the death of their coach, Johnson, whom Bowman replaced. Another blow was Lemieux’s Hodgkin’s disease, which prevented him from taking part in the team’s activities for two months. Despite having missed 24 games, Lemieux still won his fourth Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion. The team also played better than before after Lemieux’s return. The Pittsburgh Penguins also garnered the Presidents’ Trophy for being the team that earned the highest points in a regular season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their good performance throughout the 1990s. In 1997, Lemieux retired, leaving Jagr to be the leading scorer. The latter won 4 Art Ross Trophies for consecutive seasons.

Lemieux’s comeback

In November 1998, the darkest moment in the history of the team came as The Penguins were forced to file for bankruptcy. But before the team folded, Lemieux saved the team for the second time by buying it. And in 1999, Lemieux became the official owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. What was surprising was Lemieux’s decision to come back as a player. And in 2000, Lemieux became the first player-owner in NHL history. The Penguins also got the chance to make their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

To gain a financial foothold, the team traded Jagr and Frantisek Kucera, which was a wrong move; the loss of Jagr led to the team’s missing the playoffs in 2002. This trading off of excellent players led to another, weakening the Pittsburgh Penguins in consequence.

The 2003-2004 season was also a difficult one; Lemieux suffered a hip injury which prevented him from joining the game. Penguins also got the worst NHL record with only 23 winnings. For three consecutive years, the Penguins missed the playoffs. Despite this, the team did come on and finished undefeated in April.

In 2005, the Penguins had paid off their debts. The management then rebuilt the team under a salary cap. And in 2006, Lemieux announced his retirement, this time for good, and was held as the second highest scorer next to Wayne Gretzky. In that same year, Sidney Crosby broke Lemieux’s record as the top-scoring rookie in the team. He was also considered as the youngest rookie in history to score 100 points.

In the 2006-07 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins earned the fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Sidney Crosby got the Art Ross Trophy for being the league’s top scorer. Aside from the Art Ross Trophy, Crosby was also declared as the league’s MVP, giving him the Hart Memorial Trophy. Crosby also got the Lester B. Pearson Award for being the league’s most outstanding player. Two rookies also became finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year.

At the end of the season, Crosby, aged 19 then, was offered the honor to be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain. This would make him the youngest full team captain in the history of NHL. However, Crosby declined the offer.

Up to the present, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to get stronger because of their valuable players such as Crosby, Evgeni Malkin--the winner of the Memorial Trophy, and Ty Conklin.