The Pittsburgh Penguins have had many amazing moments in their 51 year history. Most of them happened during the playoffs on the way to their five Stanley Cups. They’ve also had a lot of moments during the regular season. Here are some of the greatest moments in Penguins history, not involving the playoffs:
12. Mario Lemieux first shift, first shot, first goal (1984)
Well, that didn’t take long. In Mario Lemieux’s first gameon October 11, 1984, against the Boston Bruins and on his first shift, he stole the puck from Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque and scored a goal with his first NHL shot against Pete Peeters.
11. Marc-Andre Fleury gets standing ovation in return to Pittsburgh (2018)
Aside from Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury might be the most beloved person to ever play for the Penguins. When the Vegas Golden Knights visited Pittsburgh in Fleury’s first game back in Pittsburgh, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house:
10. Mario Lemieux returns from cancer (1993)
In January of 1993, Mario Lemieux announced he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was forced to undergo aggressive radiation treatments but returned in March. On the day of his last radiation treatment, Lemieux flew to Philadelphia to play against the Flyers, where he scored a goal and an assist in a 5-4 loss. Before the game Lemieux earned a standing ovation from Philadelphia fans.
9. Drafting Jaromir Jagr (1990)
Since 1984, it can be argued that the Penguins have had the best player in the world every year. It started with Mario Lemieux and continued with drafting Jaromir Jagr 5th overall in the 1990 draft.
8. Sidney Crosby’s first shootout goal (2005)
This wasn’t Crosby’s first goal but it did show a glimpse of what was to come:
7. Sidney Crosby returns from injury in style (2011)
After suffering 2 concussions in 2010, Sidney Crosby missed 48 games in the 2010-11 season and 20 games at the start of the 2011-12 season. This was his first game back and he scored one of his best goals:
6. Mario comes out of retirement (2000)
Mario Lemieux retired in 1997 at the age of 31. In 2000, he announced he was coming out of retirement and I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this. It was electric:
5. The Ron Francis/Ulf Samuelsson Trade (1991)
When the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux in 1984, they had one of the best players in hockey. They still weren’t winning thought and only made the playoffs once between 1984 and 1991. Two things changed the Penguins fortunes in the 1990-91 season: hiring Badger Bob Johnson as coach and GM Craig Patrick making a blockbuster trade on March 4, 1991. The Pens acquired Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker. Losing Cullen was huge but acquiring Francis gave the Penguins a great 2-way center. Ulf Samuelsson was Jack Lambert on skates and Grant Jennings was a solid defenseman. It helped transform the Penguins from just an offensive threat to a great team offensively and defensively.
4. Mario scores 5 goals 5 different ways (1988)
I can do an entire article on Mario Lemieux highlights (hey, that’s a good idea), but the New Years Eve 1988 game where Mario scored every way possible: even strength, shorthanded, power play, penalty shot and empty net, is not likely to be matched.
3. Mario Lemieux announces the team is staying (2007)
The Pittsburgh Penguins are known for three things: great players, championships, and drama over whether the team will stay in Pittsburgh. They’ve had multiple bankruptcies and sales throughout their history. In 2007, it was obvious Mellon Arena needed to be replaced. The Penguins were trying to get a casino license to pay for a new arena but they didn’t get that. On March 13, 2007, the Penguins reached an agreement with state and local officials for construction of a new arena that will keep the team in Pittsburgh under a 30-year lease.
2. Winning the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes (2005)
2005 was another time where the Penguins (and all of hockey) were in bad shape. The entire 2004-2005 season was lost to a lockout and the Penguins were for sale. If it wasn’t for winning the draft lottery, there might not be hockey in Pittsburgh today.
- Drafting Mario Lemieux (1984)
This is where is all started. The Penguins had some success in their years before Mario was drafted, but drafting Mario put the Penguins on the map. No player in any sport might ever be as important to a city as Mario is to Pittsburgh. He saved hockey as a player and by purchasing the team.
There’s so many moments not included in this list. Did I get the order right? What else should be included? Let me know in the comments.