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Penguins End Championship Drought

Andrew RostenContributor IIJune 13, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 2-1 to win Game Seven and the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks, two teams that last won the Stanley Cup in the 1960s, a 17-year championship drought would not seem very lengthy.

Since the Pittsburgh Penguins' previous Cup victory in 1992, however, the team, and the National Hockey League, went through a series of changes that may have made those 17 years seem like 17 decades.

In that 1991-92 season, the NHL had 22 teams. Since the Mario Lemieux-led Penguins' second straight championship, the league expanded to 30 teams, with the addition of eight teams: the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Minnesota Wild.

The former four teams have enjoyed at least one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Lightning brought the Cup to the Gulf Coast in 2004 while the newly-named Anaheim Ducks seized their title in 2007.

Adding to the changing times, four of the existing teams relocated to different cities. The Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, and Hartford Whalers changed their locations and names to the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively.

Three of those teams have won championships after their relocation. The Avalanche lifted the Cup up the Rocky Mountains in 1996, the Stars brought it to the Lone Star State in 1999, and the Hurricanes won it in 2006.

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The Penguins, meanwhile, had a tough time living with post-Cup fame. They needed Lemieux's ownership to rescue them from bankruptcy during the 1998-99 season. The following half-decade would bring rumors of relocation as Pittsburgh struggled to make ends meet at Mellon Arena and tried desperately to gain funding for a new arena.

But with the 2005 NHL Entry Draft came a ray of hope: Sidney Crosby.

With the promise of Crosby being the Penguins' savior, the Penguins managed to finalize plans in 2007 to build a new arena, a move that should keep the team in Pittsburgh for the next three decades.

So here they sit on the ice now, on top of the NHL, with the 35-pound Stanley Cup in hand.

What a long, rewarding trip it was.

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