5 Pieces of Pittsburgh Penguins Trivia Every Fan Should Know

Steve Rodenbaugh@rodeyslContributor IIIJuly 17, 2013

5 Pieces of Pittsburgh Penguins Trivia Every Fan Should Know

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    As a relative newcomer to the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins may not have as storied a history as one of the "Original Six" teams, but they do have an interesting one.

    While many Pens fans are well versed in stories about legendary players such as Pierre Larouche and stories of the Century Line, there are other parts of the Pens' history that Pittsburgh fans should know but few do.

    With that in mind, let's look at five pieces of team trivia that every fan should know.

The Meaning Behind the Logo

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    Since joining the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1967, both the Pittsburgh Penguins and their team logo have seen their share of changes.

    While the colors and design of the logo may have changed, from the original “skating penguin” logo with blue lettering, to the black and gold “flying penguin” logo of the '90s, one element of the logo has remained the same, the gold triangle.  

    Although Pens fans recognize the symbol as part of the Pens' logo, not many know that it symbolizes Pittsburgh’s famed Golden Triangle.

    One of the most recognizable characteristics of downtown Pittsburgh, the Golden Triangle lies at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which form the Ohio River. It's been the namesake of everything from bike rentals shops to construction companies in Pittsburgh.

Penguin Goaltender Andy Brown Makes Hockey History

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    Given the NHL’s recent decision to mandate visors for all incoming players, it’s amazing to think that there was a time when goaltenders playing without a mask was commonplace.

    While the image of Sidney Crosby wearing a mask in this year’s playoffs generated a lot of discussion, few fans know that almost 40 years prior, on April 7, 1974, Andy Brown of the Pens became the last NHL goaltender to play without a mask in a 6–3 loss to the Atlanta Flames.

    Known by the nickname “Fearless,” Brown also showed his toughness in other ways and that year set the NHL single-season record for penalty minutes by a goaltender with 60.

    Coincidentally, the Pens also have ties to another well-known mask-less goaltender, Eddie Johnston.   While he is best known to Pens fans as the franchise's all-time leader in coaching wins (232), losses (224) and games coached (516), Johnston was the last goaltender to play every minute of every game in a season (1963-1964) and did so without a mask.

New Colors Bring New Fortunes

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    While the Penguins had some success in their early years, they struggled to create a following and even faced bankruptcy and the prospect of folding or relocating in 1975.

    Following championship seasons by Pittsburgh’s other two pro teams, the Pirates and the Steelers, the Penguins decided to adopt the city’s familiar black and gold team colors in 1980.  

    While local sports fans applauded the move, not everyone was happy with the change.  Claiming a monopoly on the use of black and gold in the NHL, the Boston Bruins filed a protest with the league.  

    The Pens argued that Pittsburgh’s original NHL team, the Pirates (1925-1930), had also adopted black and gold and, since the city flag also bore those colors, they had become identified with Pittsburgh.

    Ultimately, the league backed the Pens and the new uniform was allowed.

How the Penguins Became the Penguins

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    While fans remember Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena as the Penguins original home, few know that the arena itself was responsible for the team’s mascot selection.

    Originally built in 1961 to house the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Civic Arena was the first major-sports venue in the world to have a retractable roof.  

    While the roof was never opened for an NHL game, the appearance of the stainless steel dome covered with snow led to the nickname “the Igloo.”

    When Pittsburgh was awarded one of six NHL expansion franchises in 1967, the selection of “Penguins” as the mascot was a logical choice given the nickname of the arena.  The team would call "the Igloo" home for the next 43 years.

The Man and the State That Saved the Penguins

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    Of all of the people who've had a part in keeping hockey alive and vibrant in the Steel City, one of the most overlooked is Wren Blair.

    In 1975, the Penguins were struggling on the ice and at the box office.  With dwindling attendance, and rising costs, it looked as though the NHL's Pittsburgh experiment had failed.

    That is until Wren Blair, who at the time was head coach of another expansion team, the Minnesota North Stars, led a group of investors in a successful effort to save the franchise.  

    Blair would serve as the Pens general manager for the next two seasons, and the team went from being cellar dwellers to playoff contenders.  Since then, the Pens have had a curious connection with the state of Minnesota.  Consider the following facts:

    In 1991, the Pens won their first Stanley Cup in Minnesota against the North Stars.  

    In 2002, the Pens were looking for a new director of player personnel following their most recent bankruptcy scare and promoted legendary University of Minnesota coach Herb Brooks to the position.  

    In 2005, the Pens drafted a young player who had attended Shattuck-St Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota named Sidney Crosby.

    In 2006, the Pens selected a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Ray Shero, to replace Craig Patrick as the team's general manager.

    In 2013, the Minnesota Wild returned to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons under the leadership of former Pens assistant coach Mike Yeo and former Pens assistant GM Chuck Fletcher.

    Whether these are mere coincidences or fate, it's important to remember how big a role the state of Minnesota has played in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins.