Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Teams of the Early '90s: Where Are They Now?
The Steelers of the 1970s are such an integral part of the Pittsburgh lexicon that those of us born after 1979 often felt deprived growing up. There was a sense that Pittsburgh's days of sports glory had peaked and all that was left were the collective memories of a time we hadn't lived through. Maybe that sounds a little dramatic, but even as a kid I was keenly aware of the disappointment that comes with showing up at a party just after the guest of honor leaves.
The 1980s were particularly hard on the Pittsburgh region. After a decade of absolute dominance, the Steelers and the Pirates were both in sharp decline and the Penguins were an afterthought. The recession hit the region hard and residents were forced to watch the slow death of the industry that had literally defined them.
To an entire generation of Burghers, the Penguins of the early 1990s were the Steelers of the '70s. It was the first time we could create memories that would help get us through the tough years ahead as the city we love struggled to reinvent itself. It was a brief return to sports glory and proof that the Steel City's best days weren't behind it.
If you have the smug desire to say "If you think he's good...you shoulda seen Kevin Stevens in his prime" every time the Penguins call up a young winger and then instantly think to yourself "I wonder what he's doing now"—this list is for you.
Mark Recchi Then
Mark Recchi was the undersized workhorse of the 1990-91 season, bulldozing his way to 113 points in 78 games and finishing behind only Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Adam Oates in scoring for the year. He was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers the next season for Rich Tocchet, Kjell Samuelsson and Ken Wregget.
The move by then-GM Craig Patrick gave the team a much-needed midseason boost, but sacrificing Recchi and Paul Coffey for short-term replacements likely cost the Pens down the road.
Mark Recchi Now
Most hockey fans know where Mark Recchi is today—playing right wing for the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. At 43, Recchi is the oldest active player in the NHL and is fourth all-time in games played. Questions about his age and production have followed him for a few seasons but Recchi’s performance in the Finals has silenced even his most vocal of critics.
Jim Paek Then
Jim Paek Now
Today Paek is in his sixth season as assistant coach for Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings and has won two Stanley Cups with the club. His jersey is displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, recognizing him as the first Korean to both play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Paek is married with two children and lives in Michigan.
Shawn McEachern Then
Shawn McEachern was drafted by the Penguins in 1987 and was part of the 1992 Stanley Cup team. In 1993 he was traded to Los Angeles for Marty McSorely and in 1994 he was traded back to the Penguins from the Kings with Tomas Sandstrom for Jim Paek and Marty McSorely. After being traded to the Bruins in 1995 with Kevin Stevens, McEachern went on to play 17 additional seasons in the NHL before retiring in 2007.
Shawn McEachern Now
Today McEachern is in his first season as assistant coach at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Before that, he was an assistant at Northeastern University. McEachern was inducted into the Boston University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
Originally from Waltham, Mass, he now resides in Marblehead with his wife and three children.
Kjell Samuelsson Then
In 1992, Kjell Samuelsson was traded to the Penguins along with Rick Tocchet and Ken Wregget from the Philadelphia Flyers for Mark Recchi. He stayed with the Penguins until 1995 when he was signed as a free agent by the Flyers, where he spent most of his career and ultimately retired in 1999 as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Kjell Samuelsson Now
Peter Taglianetti Then
A defensive blueliner known more for his physical style than scoring ability, Tags finished the regular season appearing in 39 regular-season games for the Penguins and scoring four points while accumulating 57 penalty minutes.
He retired due to injury as a Pen in 1996.
Peter Taglianetti Now
Today, Massachusetts native Taglianetti calls Pittsburgh home and works for P.J. Dick, Trumbull and Lindy Paving in some capacity. He and ex-wife Alison have five kids, including twin boys, Andrew and Jon, who were high school football standouts. Currently both are sophomores playing for the University of Pittsburgh.
Taglianetti has dabbled in broadcasting since his retirement; in February of 2011 he was hired by Pittsburgh’s 93-7 The FAN as a regular contributor. In January 2011, Tags participated in the Winter Classic Alumni Game at Heinz Field.
He also has a blog that I check regularly, despite the fact that he hasn’t fully committed to it.
Joe Mullen Then
Joe Mullen was traded to the Penguins by the Calgary Flames in 1990. The gritty right winger, who grew up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, was an instrumental member of both Cup teams and netted an astonishing 47 goals in 1992. Mullen remained with the Pens for all but one of his remaining years in the NHL and retired as a Pen in 1997.
When he retired he was the first American-born NHL player to score 500 goals and the first to reach 1,000 total career points, feats recognized by his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 1980, Mullen declined an offer by Team USA coach Herb Brooks to join what would be the "Miracle on Ice" team.
Joe Mullen Now
In 2000, Mullen began his post-playing career as an assistant coach with the Penguins, where he remained until 2006 when the entire coaching staff was fired after a disappointing start to the season. Mullen was immediately hired as head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, replacing Michel Therrien who was named head coach of the Pens.
In 2007, Mullen accepted an assistant coach position with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he remains today.
Joe and wife Linda have been married almost 30 years and have four kids. Their two youngest boys, Patrick and Michael, are both playing professional hockey.
Ron Francis Then
Ron Francis came to the Penguins in 1991 along with Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson from the Hartford Whalers (RIP: The Whale) via the best NHL trade deadline deal of all time. The Craig Patrick-engineered blockbuster, which sent John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski packing, is credited as a predominate factor in the Pens' early '90s success.
The prolific Francis was a leading scorer during both Cup years and his leadership was integral when an Adam Graves cheap shot knocked Mario Lemieux out of the 1992 playoffs for five games with a broken wrist. Francis spent seven seasons with the Pens during his NHL career which spanned nearly 25 years.
He retired in 2005.
Anyone else still feeling the burning hate over the Graves slash 20 years later?
Ron Francis Now
Most hockey fans already know where (the adorable) Francis is today, as current associate head coach and director of player personnel for the Carolina Hurricanes; he’s a common sight behind the bench. He’s been with the ‘Canes (formerly The Whale) as a player or coach since 1998. Naturally, Francis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and last January he participated in the Legends Game at Heinz Field as part of the Winter Classic kickoff.
Francis and his wife Mary Lou, who reside in Raleigh, have a fairytale marriage and three children: Kaitlyn, Michael and Connor—all of whom, I expect, are adorable.
Grant Jennings Then
Grant Jennings landed in Pittsburgh in 1991 as part of the blockbuster trade with The Whale that also brought Ron Francis. Jennings, overshadowed in history by Francis and Samuelsson, was a key defensive contributor for years paired with Larry Murphy, scoring the Game 5 winner as the Penguins beat the Bruins in the 1991 Stanley Cup semifinal.
He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1995 before retiring in 1997.
Grant Jennings Now
Jennings, who wanted to be a pilot but didn’t have the hours to devote, attended Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and earned an associate’s degree in 2001. Upon graduation, in what may be the worst case of bad timing ever, he was hired by US Airways months prior to 9/11 and was laid off within months.
Which, incidentally, is where the story gets good.
Jennings headed to Anchorage, Alaska in 2002 to work as an airline mechanic and sometimes pilot for Northern Air Maintenance Services. He works a two-week-on, two-week-off schedule at the Deadhorse Airport, which is a two-day journey by bus from the nearest notable city, Fairbanks, with an overnight stop in Coldfoot.
Well sure it sounds unpleasant, but he probably has some booze to get him through the frigid cold and endless nights—right? Wrong, since alcoholic beverages aren’t sold in town—a famous sign reads, “All that far and still no bar.” Daaaaaaaaaaang.
Clearly the work agrees with Jennings, a divorced father of two, because he’s looking pretty fine these days.
Frank Pietrangelo Then
Frank Pietrangelo made history during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils. Starting in place of the injured Tom Barrasso, Pietrangelo secured his legacy in hockey history with an impossible glove save against Peter Stastny—staving off elimination for the Pens. Like The Immaculate Reception and The Tackle, The Save will endure forever in Pittsburgh sports lore.
Pietrangelo only played a few seasons in the NHL before settling in the IHL for the duration of his career. He retired in 2001.
Frank Pietrangelo Now
Today, Frank Pietrangelo remains one of Niagara Falls Ontario’s most famous residents. His two children—Paige and Dylan—both play hockey.
Paige is attending Robert Morris University on a hockey scholarship and was voted Most Improved Player in 2009. Dylan, an NHL prospect, plays for the prep team at Hill Academy in Vaughan Ontario, where his dad is the general manager and coach.
Tom Barrasso Then
In the net, cantankerous goalie Tom Barrasso was nothing short of magnificent in the early '90s—his standout play was one of the biggest contributing factors to both Cup victories.
Right or wrong, it’s no secret that kind of contribution generally guarantees an athlete a pretty wide margin of error when it comes to personal conduct—honestly, Marc Andre Fleury could kill my dog and I’d probably let it slide if he gave me a good reason. This general mentality is what makes Barrasso’s sudden fall from grace all the more stunning.
He was arrested in 1994 for making terrorist threats during a bar fight and was quoted as saying "What's it going to be like with broken knees? I'm serious." Maybe he really was just curious. The following season rumors of off-the-ice dalliances coincided with a groin injury that kept him out nearly two full seasons and speculation which worsened his already strained and combative relationship with the local media.
Today in Pittsburgh, the name Barrasso still elicits groans of disgust—“Oh, you mean Bar*sshole” is a common retort.
You know who probably doesn’t care? Tom Barrasso.
Tom Barrasso Now
Tommy B, who retired in 2003, has been working for the Carolina Hurricanes since 2006 and was recently promoted to assistant coach. He seems to be well liked within the organization, which is good because the thin-skinned goalie has yet to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the consensus is that it has less to do with his NHL career and more to do with the fact that his name is synonymous with douchebag.
He’s still with his forgiving wife Meghan and the couple live in Raleigh, North Carolina with their three daughters: Ashley, Kelsey and Mallory.
Troy Loney Then
Troy Loney played the role of the solid, if not understated, veteran on both Stanley Cup Championship teams. In those days, Loney had a reputation as kind of a brawler—not afraid to drop the gloves when the moment presented itself. Known more for penalty minutes than points, Loney was the necessary muscle on a team packed with some of the most prolific players to ever play the game.
Troy Loney Now
Two decades have passed and Troy Loney is still the finest redhead to ever don the jersey. He is, inexplicably, looking as fine today as he did 20 years ago. The Canada native has called Pittsburgh home since he was drafted by the Penguins in 1982 and currently pulls double-duty as head of sales for a pharmacy benefit management company and hockey coach for his youngest son.
He and his wife, Pine Richland School Director Aafke, live in Valencia with their daughter Aafke and three hockey-playing sons—Ty, Reed and Clint.
Larry Murphy Then
In 1991, Larry Murphy was traded to the Penguins from the Stars">Minnesota North Stars and stayed through the 1995 season. Murphy was always known as a scoring defenseman but the years he spent in Pittsburgh were the most productive of his career, scoring nearly 80 points each season. In the 1990s, Murphy won two Stanley Cups with the Pens and two with the Red Wings—the only NHL player to win four Cups in that span of time.
Murphy retired in 2001 after 21 seasons in the league and is currently the fifth-highest scoring defenseman in NHL history.
Larry Murphy Now
Since his retirement, Murphy has worked steadily in broadcasting. Today he is a color analyst for the Detroit Red Wings on FSN Detroit and occasionally appears on the NHL Network’s highlight show, NHL on the Fly.
Murphy and his wife Nancy live on a horse farm in Clarkston, Michigan, with their three children.
Ulf Samuelsson Then
Ulf Samuelsson landed in Pittsburgh in 1991 as part of the blockbuster trade with The Whale that also brought Ron Francis. Samuelsson was a hard-hitting agitator on defense who averaged two penalty minutes per game over the course of his 1,080 career games. His reputation was partially accredited to his deliberate knee-on-knee collision with Bruin legend Cam Neely in the 1991 Wales Conference finals; the injury ultimately ended Neely’s career and Ulfie still inspires hate in Beantown because of it.
He was with the Pens until 1995 and retired in 2000.
Ulf Samuelsson Now
Samuelsson took a few years off from hockey entirely after his retirement to focus on some business ventures. At one point he was operating no less than one restaurant and three car dealerships while managing a flourishing eBay career.
Eventually the ice beckoned and he has been coaching steadily; from 2006-2011, he was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes. In spring of 2011, he accepted the head coaching position with MODO Hockey, a professional ice hockey club in Ornskoldsyik, Sweden.
Outside of coaching, Ulfie has found time to build his own army of beautiful Swedish hockey superstars—sons Philip, Henrik and Adam, and daughter Victoria are all playing hockey at some level. In 2009, the Penguins drafted Philip in the second round of the NHL draft and recently signed him to a three-year deal.
No word on what became of his eBay career.
Ken Wregget Then
Ken Wregget was traded to the Penguins from the Philadelphia Flyers in a deal that included Rick Tocchet and Kjell Samuelsson. Wregget was a backup for the most part during his time in Pittsburgh, but thanks to the city-wide hatred of Tom Barrasso, he has taken on kind of a mythical aura and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Pens fan who doesn’t speak glowingly of the guy.
He retired in 2000 after 16 seasons in the NHL.
Ken Wregget Now
Ken Wregget has kept a low profile since he retired from professional hockey, but here's what I know:
He plays golf.
He shovels snow for his neighbors.
His wife Susan raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,
His daughter Courtney is clever with the word-play and much more responsible with her online presence than the daughters of other goalies.
That's all I need to know.
Paul Coffey Then
Paul Coffey spent four-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1992. Coffey was a prolific scorer on defense and the years he spent in Pittsburgh were the most productive of his post-Gretzky career.
Coffey retired in 2001 after 26 seasons in the NHL as the second-leading scorer among defensemen in league history. He has said that Pittsburgh was his favorite NHL city to play in outside of Edmonton.
Coffey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Paul Coffey Now
After his retirement, he briefly considered coaching when offered a position with Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes but ultimately decided against it because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
In 2004, Coffey opened the first of his two car dealerships in the Toronto area, where he impresses his employees by casually bringing up Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. He has a messy cubicle with a poster of Gretzky rocking a creepy blond moustache hanging on the wall. Truly a legend.
In December 2010, Coffey was one of many Pens legends who played in the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
He and wife Stephanie live in Caledon, Ontario, with daughter Savannah and sons Christian and Blake.
Gordie Roberts Then
In 1990, Gordie Roberts was handpicked by Penguins coach Bob Johnson to provide blue-line stability and he stayed with the team through both Cup years. He was a solid contributor during his time in Pittsburgh, his plus-minus ranking was an impressive plus-19 over two seasons.
Roberts retired in 1994 after 20 seasons in the NHL.
Gordie Roberts Now
Since his retirement, Roberts has held a number of coaching and scouting positions, most recently with the Montreal Canadiens in 1999.
Currently he’s in his first year as a volunteer assistant men’s hockey coach at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota. He’s said recently that he hopes to go back into pro scouting.
He eventually settled in Minneapolis with his wife Marlo and their children Ben and Dana. Ben is a forward at Augsburg College in Minneapolis Minnesota.
His favorite food is chicken.
Rich Tocchet Then
Rick Tocchet’s time in Pittsburgh was brief but memorable—a badass through and through, he was well liked by fans almost immediately. He arrived in Pittsburgh in 1992 on the heels of another blockbuster trade by then-GM Craig Patrick from the Philadelphia Flyers; he made an immediate contribution in the 1991-92 Stanley Cup Championship team, scoring 30 points in 19 games, and followed up that performance the next year with the best season in his 18-year career.
He was with the Pens until 1996 and played on a number of different teams before retiring as a Flyer in 2002.
Rick Tocchet Now
Following his retirement, Rick Tocchet worked as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche before accepting a position with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005 under head coach Wayne Gretzky. In 2006, Tocchet and Wayne Gretzky’s wife, Janet, were implicated in a sports gambling ring and eventually plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and promoting gambling. As a result, he took a two-year “leave of absence” from the NHL.
In 2008, he was named as the associate coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was until being fired in April 2010. He currently does postgame coverage for the Philadelphia Flyers on Comcast SportsNet.
Bryan Trottier Then
Bryan Trottier was already a legend coming to the end of a storied career when he was signed by the Penguins in 1991 to provide leadership to the young team. He won his fifth and sixth Stanley Cups with the Penguins and put a verbal beat-down on Brian Bellows before retiring in 1994.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
Bryan Trottier Now
Since his retirement, Trottier has worked on-and-off (mostly on) as a coach and executive in the NHL. Most recently he served as director of player development with the New York Islanders before being let go with no public explanation in July 2010.
Don’t you worry about Trots though, he’s keeping busy. Bryan and wife Jennifer live in Canonsburg, PA, with some of Bryan’s four children: Bryan Jr., Lindsey, Tayler and Christian. He’s got a Facebook page, a Twitter page with two tweets and a pretty rockin’ website. If you are curious about the contents of his website but too lazy to visit, here is the most hilarious part:
"While Bryan is clearly the most successful athletic star in the family, each of his brothers and sisters has their own special talents, and all of them have made an impact on him over the years. Carol’s main strength is in the kitchen, where she loves cooking eggs and baking terrific puffed wheat squares. Meanwhile, Kathy is the best musician but is also a nature lover and self-designated wildlife expert with a strong interest in prairie dogs, snakes and grassland geography.
Monty is the family storyteller who remembers every joke and embellishes every story, entertaining anyone and everyone who will listen to him. Rocky is the baby and most beloved of his sisters despite his strong passion for drinking beer since the age of two."
Bryan, if you're reading this, please adopt me.
Phil Bourque Then
The man. The myth. The mullet. What else can you say about Bourque?
In 1994, Bourque had a well-reported brush with death, reportedly falling 40 feet off a cliff overlooking Lake Powell in Arizona. The story is harrowing and he was lucky to walk away with three broken vertebrae in his neck, a broken skull, a shattered sinus cavity, a broken cheekbone and a broken nose in the incident
He retired from professional hockey two years later.
Phil Bourque Now
So I spent countless hours researching this guy on the internet and made extremely awkward inquiries to slightly connected friends and this is what I came up with:
Today Phil Bourque provides color commentary on Penguins radio broadcasts, and he played in the NHL Winter Class Legends Game at Heinz Field in December. Oh, and this is the best picture I could find of him.
How is that even possible?
Kevin Stevens Then
Kevin Stevens, the finest athlete to ever don the No. 25, played for the Penguins from 1987-95 and was second to only Mario Lemieux during the peak of his career ('90-94). The physically (and emotionally) dominating Stevens was the top left winger in the game, routinely finishing among the NHL’s top scorers, and became the third person in NHL history to outscore Wayne Gretzky in the regular season. His 123 points that year also set a record for the most points by an American-born player and a left wing in one season.
In May of 1993, during what ended up being the most devastating Game 7 playoff loss in the history of sports, Stevens suffered one of the most horrific injuries ever televised—I distinctly remember tearfully pleading with my dad to promise me he wasn’t dead. It was a very bad day at my house.
Stevens required extensive reconstructive surgery on his face—his facial bones reassembled the use of metal plates and closed with over 100 stitches. Stevens had one more solid year after his injury but ultimately his career never recovered and within years he descended into a well-documented battle with addiction.
He finished his career with the Penguins, the team he played his most remarkable years with and retired in 2002.
Kevin Stevens Now
Following his retirement, Stevens took some much needed time off before returning to work as a scout for the Penguins in 2005. Additional details are scarce and interviews are vague, which is probably a good thing. In January 2011, Stevens fittingly participated in the Legends Game at Heinz Field as part of the Winter Classic kickoff.
He and his forgiving wife Suzanne have three kids—Luke, Kylie and Ryan—and reside in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a coastal town south of Boston.