It is no mystery that fans from around the league have little respect for the Pittsburgh Penguins fanbase. After filing for bankruptcy in November 1998, attendance for the team fell and the team was nearly moved from the city of Pittsburgh. Rebuilding through the draft, guided by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, the Penguins soon lifted out of the slums and made themselves legitimate contenders.
Since then, it seems as though the fanbase has been revitalized and attendance has shot up, especially with the recent opening of the state-of-the-art arena, Consol Energy Center. But having watched many games from past and present, there is still something missing. I often find myself embarrassed by the fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Too many times have I watched from home and been disappointed to hear silence in the arena. It seems as though the only time the fans in attendance cheer is when a fight occurs or a Penguins goal is netted. You can hear a pin drop when God-forbid, wait for it, the Penguins are losing. The Penguins fans just don't get it.
Now do not get the wrong idea, I am not including everyone in this blanket statement of "Pens fans." I do, however, believe that the majority of them are subject to this rant. Certainly with the recent success of the team and the new arena, new fans will come out in droves. Most of them, unfamiliar with the game of hockey and the culture of a game.
It pains me to see that when superstar players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin go down to injury, empty seats can be seen and the arena is quieter than usual. What the fans do not get is that two players do not make a team. They do not get that when a team is losing, or when it is bitten with the injury bug, the team needs the fan support more than ever. Those are the times when fans need to be as loud as if they have just witnessed the game winning goal.
Make no mistake, fans can greatly impact a game and help swing momentum for a team. The team builds off the energy and translates it into better play on the ice and can make the visiting team scramble. With the Penguins recent success, a once rabid and loyal fanbase has become elitist, spoiled and undeserving.
Is there any way that this will suddenly change overnight? No. Genuine fans are shaped over years of loyal following. They win with the team, they lose with the team. One person crying foul over their love for the game will not suddenly change them into super-fans. But it is something to note and good reasoning as to why the Penguins fanbase is among the least respected in the league.
Some may say "who cares?" Some may say I am putting too much thought into the matter. But the honest fans of a sport that have experienced the highs and lows over the years of their respected teams will understand. The teams are a part of them and vice-versa. Here's to hoping the new Penguins fans will grow into this and cheer the team their loudest, win or lose.