Thursday, February 15, 2007



Columbus and Pittsburgh are very close to each other, but we decided to drive as far as Wheeling, West Virginia and stay put for a couple of days. It was great to catch up on some extra sleep and just relax. Our four days in Las Vegas during the All Star Break didn't somehow allow for much rest. Now it was catch up time. We stayed near a very large shopping mall and theatre complex, so managed to do some shopping and see a couple of movies. Graham had to twist my rubber arm to do some shopping, but I managed to go over and buy a couple of things. We left for Pittsburgh on Monday morning and it was a short one hour drive to get there. Graham attended the morning practice, did some media interviews and met with Mark Recchi and Sidney Crosby to get our posters signed. We were once again fortunate to stay directly across the street from the arena. The Mellon arena is definitely showing its age and indeed doesn't have some of the more lucrative aspects we have seen in other newer facilities, such as lots of luxury boxes. There were a few, but not many. It also has the only retractable roof of any arena in the United States. It was built in the early 1960's as a Civic Centre and was host to many concerts and entertainment venues. It evolved into the arena for the Penguins and has served them since they came into the league. It is a very well maintained building and by no means looks run down or dumpy, but it has seen its day and definitely needs to be replaced. Land has apparently been secured directly across the street from where it now stands and I'm sure the city of Pittsburgh will build them a new facility. We have now watched the Penguins play three times and of all the teams in the league, this one to me is the most exciting. With Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, and Armstrong to name a few, they have such a strong youth movement to build on for the future. They are really fun and exciting to watch. You can feel their passion as they play and that is what playing hockey is all about. They make it fun for everyone. Their teammates, coaches and especially the fans. They are definitely the team to watch for the future and I hope for the wonderful fan base in Pittsburgh, they can remain in that city. We were also very fortunate while in Pittsburgh to meet Cindy Himes with the public/community department. Cindy has been with the Penguins for 30 years and has been there for the good times and the bad. She arranged for us to meet with Hockey in the Hood organizer Cliff Benson and coach Howard Smith. What amazing people and what an amazing bunch of kids that attend the sessions each week. The kids are brought by their parents from all over the city and the Hockey in the Hood organization sees to it that they have all the necessary hockey equipment to play the game. They now have enough kids enrolled to have a couple of older divisions like pee wee and bantam and sometimes play in tournaments. The little guys are so cute. They work hard on the ice under the direction of coaches Howard and Monique. They are very passionate and devoted to the Hockey in the Hood program and are able to make a difference in some children's lives. If anyone reading this would ever like to make a donation to a very worthy cause, this is it. It is a non profit organization that lets children play hockey that might not otherwise be able to play the game because of cost. It furthers sport and promotes a healthy activity. And that is what playing hockey is all about. We also were surprised to meet Dave Hanson at the Hockey in the Hood facility. He is one of the famous Hanson Brothers from the movie Slapshot. He is the facilities manager when he isn't on tour with his "other brothers". He was a very nice man and graciously posed for a picture with us. This is stop #26 and our win record now stands at 16 and 10. Four teams to go. Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

Graham's Game Report

Jan 30, 2007
Mellon Arena
Florida Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have had little success against the Panthers for a long time now but tonight they maintained their winning streak with a shutout victory. Marc-Andre Fleury was outstanding between the pipes and the Pens got all the offense they needed on a late first period goal by Michel Oullet. Moore and Whitney added insurance in the second period to extend their current winning streak and build the confidence of a blossoming young team. It was our third Penguin game and they look better every time we've seen them. Crosby and Malkin are on their way to superstardom already but I've been impressed with youngsters like Jordan Staal, Colby Armstrong and Oullet who get less press but are playing a solid NHL game that all teams need to be successful. This should be a fun team to watch in the future and the sooner they get into the playoffs the tougher it will be on the rest of the league. We enjoyed our stay in Pittsburgh and hopefully this franchise will stay here for years to come.

1 comment:

Bob Parana said...

Haven't tuned in lately, wanted to check out your comments on Pittsburgh. Prior to the FLA game, they had a piece on your trip on FSN Pittsburgh - which carries the game. I had been checking in from time to time. Nice to hear your comments about Pittsburgh and the Pens. I too hope they wrap things up on a new arena very shortly.
Continued success with your travels - I'm sure your son is watching over you and is quite proud of your work.
Peace and God Bless,