Stanley Cup Finals: Here's to You... Signed, The City of Pittsburgh
On the eve of what is likely the biggest game of our lives as Penguin fans, it is only fitting to look at what we have become as a fan base, as a city, as the city of Pittsburgh, and just how we got here.
Here's to you 1984 for bringing us Mario Lemieux on draft day.
Le Magnifique would begin to write his legacy during his first shift in the National Hockey League and would eventually go on to become the greatest, most respected athlete in the history of our city.
He would go on to become not only the greatest player in franchise history, but our owner, and our savior... once on the ice and once from his office upstairs.
Here's to you 1991 for allowing all of us to enjoy our first sip out of Lord Stanley's Chalice.
You allowed us to witness firsthand the sheer greatness of Mario Lemieux and the blossoming of a young Jaromir Jagr, but also taught us that without guys like Rob Brown, Kevin Stevens, John Cullen, Paul Coffey, Tom Barrasso, Joe Mullen, Mark Recchi, Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier, and countless others, winning was not guaranteed.
Here's to you 1992 for bringing us our second Stanley Cup Championship in as many seasons and allowing us all to gain a deep respect for our new head coach, Badger Bob Johnson.
Although the Badger's term with the Pens would be short lived, his legacy still remains alive and well in Pittsburgh today.
Here's to you 1993 for showing us that passion, will, and guts can be far stronger than a terminal illness.
You brought us the devastating news that Mario Lemieux had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.
Then you allowed us all to witness the most awe striking comeback in the history of professional sports, and made each and every one of us shed a tear of joy when #66 returned to the ice and went on to win the fourth Art Ross Trophy of his storied career after missing a quarter of the season.
You also brought us the Presiden't Trophy and our best season as a National Hockey League franchise.
Here's to you for bringing us David Volek's goal at 5:16 of overtime in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
You broke our hearts, but you made us stronger.
Here's to you Alex Kovalev, Martin Straka, Robert Lang, and Petr Nedved for showing us that regular season success does not guarantee a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
You toyed with our emotions during the post-Cup years, looking dominant at times during the regular season, but bailing out of the playoffs early in 1998, 99, and 2000.
Here's to you Jaromir Jagr for teaching us that you can take the reigns from Mario as the captain on the ice, but you can't avoid "dying alive" in the locker room.
You won four consecutive Art Ross Trophies, but you couldn't lead "your" team past the second round of the playoffs.
You taught us that life without Mario was something that none of us were really ready to face just yet.
Here's to you December 27, 2000 for giving us our captain and our leader back.
Mario Lemieux became the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins and then returned to the ice two days after Christmas, making the 2000-01 holiday season one that every Penguin fan will remember for the rest of their respective lives.
Here's to you Darius Kasparitis for scoring one of the most memorable goals in franchise history during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Buffalo Sabres.
Although you couldn't repeat your magic against the New Jersey Devils in the next round, you taught us that anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here's to you Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, and Michal Sivek for coming to Pittsburgh via Washington in exchange for Jaromir Jagr in the summer of 2001.
You cleared our locker room of what had become somewhat of a disease, but you became diseases yourself on the ice.
Collectively, the three of you played an integral role in beginning what is now referred to as "The Dark Ages".
Here's to you 2002 for reminding us what it felt like to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs after we did it for the first time in 12 years.
You sent Alex Kovalev to New York and Robert Lang to the free agent pool and catapulted us into the cellar of the Eastern Conference for what seemed like an eternity.
Here's to you 2003 for bringing us our goaltender of the future, Marc-Andre Fleury.
Sure, he was no Tom Barrasso yet, but this kid showed much more potential than Johan Hedberg, Ron Tugnutt, and Jean Sebastian Aubin combined.
Here's to you 2004 for bringing us Evgeni Malkin with the second pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
You deserve a toast not only for bringing us the now fan favorite "Geno" but for preventing us from playing host city to one of the biggest jokes in the National Hockey League, Alexander Ovechkin.
Here's to you 2004-05 for giving us all a glimpse of what life without hockey would be like.
Aleksey Morozov and Milan Kraft headed to Europe, and would remain there after the lockout had ended.
Here's to you July 22, 2005 for allowing us to win the draft lottery and eventually draft Sidney Crosby with the first pick in the 2005 Entry Draft.
You took the initial step in allowing all of us to have the pleasure of watching Sid "The Kid" blossom into Sid "The Superstar" and become one of the most passionate, dedicated, and physically gifted Penguins to ever lace up a pair of skates.
Here's to you Eddie Olcyzk for failing miserably at your job as our head coach.
You opened the door for Michel Therrien to take the reigns and mold our newly acquired young group of unseasoned Penguins into a championship caliber hockey team.
If you would only let us forget that you were fired every time you are on national television, we would greatly appreciate it.
Here's to you 2005-06 season for allowing us to bid farewell to Mario one final time.
His second departure was no more easier than the first, but it allowed Sidney Crosby to take the reigns and become the youngest player in history to record 100 points in a season, a record that had previously been held by Sid's mentor, and landlord, Lemieux.
Here's to you October 18, 2006 for finally allowing Evgeni Malkin to suit up for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Though he didn't speak a word of English yet, Geno set an NHL record by scoring a goal in his first six games in the NHL, and gave us all an early glimpse of his superstar potential.
Here's to you Craig Patrick for 16 years of dedicated service as our General Manager.
Patrick would be replaced by current GM, Ray Shero, on May 25, 2006 after having managed the Penguins to two Stanley Cup Championships in his 16 years of service to the team.
You always did what you thought was best for the team, whether it be making a big deal at the deadline to bring in Kjell Samuelsson, Ken Wregget, and Rick Tocchet or trading Jaromir Jagr for a bag of pucks.
You never gave up on us, and for that, we salute you.
Here's to you 2006-07 for once again establishing a feeling of satisfaction as the Penguins returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 47 point turnaround from the previous season.
You let us witness Evgeni Malkin's Calder Memorial Trophy winning season as the NHL's best rookie.
You brought us the epitome of old time hockey in Gary Roberts and forever embedded the phrase "WWGRD?" into our hearts and minds.
You brought us our first 100-point season in 11 years.
You brought Sidney Crosby his first Art Ross, Hart, and Lester B. Pearson trophies and established him as the biggest star, and the best player, in the National Hockey League.
But most importantly, you brought us a first round playoff beat down by the Ottawa Senators, which taught fans and players alike that simply being talented wasn't enough to win a Stanley Cup.
Here's to you March 13, 2007 for allowing our Pittsburgh Penguins to remain in the city of Pittsburgh.
After months of debate, bargaining, political wars, Jim Balsille, talk of relocation, meetings in Kansas City, Oklahoma, and Houston, and countless hours of reading about what exactly a "slots license" was, you could once again rest easy knowing that the Penguins weren't going anywhere.
Here's to you April 2, 2008 for bringing us our first Atlantic Division Championship in 10 seasons.
The 2007-08 season saw the Penguins take a stronghold of the Eastern Conference, never slipping below third place from January until the end of the regular season.
Here's to you Ty Conklin for coming out of nowhere and keeping our playoff hopes alive and well in the absence of Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2007-08 season.
Here's to you Evgeni Malkin for carrying the team on your back for the biggest part of the 07-08 season and establishing yourself as not only one of the best players on your team, but one of the best in the world.
Here's to you Philadelphia for falling at our feet in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals as we raised the Eastern Conference Championship banner.
You reminded us just how easy it was to hate you, your city, your fans, and your team, and how sweet it was to watch you lose.
Here's to you 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings for showing our new group of heroes what it takes to win the Stanley Cup, and for doing it in our house.
You dominated us in the first two games of the series, but we wouldn't go down quietly.
Max Talbot and Petr Sykora shocked the world in Game Five.
Then you came into our house and hoisted the Stanley Cup.
We have not forgotten, and neither should you.
Here's to you Game Seven.
It's been an unreal season.
In February, no one was giving the Penguins a chance at even making the playoffs.
Look at us now.
We have waived goodbye to Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, Georges Laraque, Adam Hall, Gary Roberts, and Ty Conklin.
We have played without our star defenseman for over half of the season.
We have suited up nearly two full lines of minor league players for over a month due to injuries.
We have fired our head coach, and hired a new one.
We have parted ways with Ryan Whitney in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams.
We have brought in Bill Guerin.
We have eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers once again.
We have continued our post season dominance of the Washington Capitals.
We have dismantled the seemingly unstoppable train that was the Carolina Hurricanes.
And now, we are right back where we started.
The Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins will play one game tomorrow night in Joketown.
One team will win. That team will be crowned the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.
For Detroit, the title of dynasty is on the line.
For Pittsburgh, the fulfillment of boyhood dreams lies in the balance for some, while one last shot at glory looms over the heads of others.
For both teams, it all comes down to this one game.
Two teams. 60 minutes. The greatest prize in sports on the line.
If you're like me, you barely knew how to tie your shoes the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
This will be the biggest game of your life.
Never give up.
Let's Go Pens.
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