Well, he pulled it off. Fans are crowing that Mario Lemieux has gotten another hat trick, this one off the ice. Pulling the franchise out of obscurity into the stratosphere of Lord Stanley. Then pulling it out of bankruptcy, and now–finally– into a new arena, and a new era.

Of course, there are many others who have helped along the way, and, gentleman that he is, Mario would be the first to credit them. But, we all know people who are capable of galvanizing others to act, to do better, and Mario certainly seems to be one of them. Not to mention the enormous amount of charity work he and his wife have done in our area.

Another guy who deserves a lot of credit is Ken Sawyer. I have gotten to know him and his wife, Shirley in the past several years, and they must be ecstatic right now. He so did want this to work out.

I couldn’t be happier for all of them. Hockey was part of my very beginnings in Pittsburgh. Literally. My first night here as a new employee, my then-husband and I sat in our hotel room, and watched probably the most amazing sports upset in history-the US victory over Russia in the 1980 Olympics. Hockey was also our only connection with my former residence of Birmingham. My husband had been a business partner with several Birmingham Bulls–one was former Montreal Canadien Phil Roberto. We also knew a number of young Bulls players who went on to careers in the NFL–Mark Napier, Rod Langway, Ricky Vaive. Sometimes we would go to Pens games, just to see them. Hockey was also the first sport I ever covered–sometimes phoning in reports from Bulls games. But the real treat was getting to know the legendary Frank Mahovlich, when he was playing his last years in Birmingham. He once talked about his brother Peter, who, yes– was playing in Pittsburgh. Two years later, I was here.

11 years later, in 1991, Stan Savran and I were covering the Pens in Minnesota, for the finals of the Stanley Cup, against the North Stars. It was game six, the Pens were about to win, and I had gone down into the tunnel, waiting for the end. The Cup was there, on a cloth draped table, ready to be rolled out. I peered at the engraving, the legends who have etched their names into the games history, and I found
Frank Mahovlich’s name. Then the game was over, and the most amazing celebration began. I will never forget the scene in the locker room– all the wives , friends, and reporters piled in there. It didn’t end there. Months later, I covered the Pens visit to the White House. It was a grand time for this city, and it continued into the next year, when they won the second Cup, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yes, Pittsburgh is the Steelers. But Mario and that team took hockey and wove it inextricably into the sports landscape here. The thought of losing the team was inconceivable to anyone who followed the Pens back then. The son of a friend of mine was one of them. He was just a boy in ’91 and is now working in New York. He intends to move back someday soon. However, he told his parents he would ABSOLUTELY not return if the Penguins left. And his parents are part of the ownership group! Now, you can hear them, and many others, audibly exhaling–and looking forward to at least one, if not more, Stanley Cups.


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