Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pens v Isles - A Tribute to the Mellon (nee Civic) Arena

Instead of a recap of tonight's game, I want to do something a little different in honor of the historical significance of the evening. (All pictures in today's post are my own. Click them to enlarge. I tried to select ones that demonstrated the uniqueness of the Mellon.)

Nearly two years ago, just before construction began on what is now called the Consol Energy Center, I posted this brief history of the dome shaped structure that began as the Civic Arena and was rechristened the Mellon Arena in 1999. The fans have called it the Igloo, but our beloved Pittsburgh Penguins have called it HOME since 1967. Tonight, the building hosts its last regular season hockey game.

There are thousands of us who have one (or more!) precious memories of time spent in the Mellon Arena. I invite you all to share your favorites with us in The Friends' Zone below.

Some people think we're making a big deal of nothing, that buildings are constructed and demolished every day so there's no reason to get sentimental about concrete and steel. But I spent so much time there and those experiences are such a big part of who I am that I feel like I'm losing a small piece of myself. I attended my first concert there. I was almost 12 when my mom, my sister, and I took a Greyhound bus from the Logan Valley Mall in Altoona to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh to see Skid Row and Aerosmith. That memory is burned into my head like it just happened yesterday. Up to then, all our family vacations had been to places like Gettysburg or the Kinzua Bridge or the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster (my Dad favors old, historical sites), so it was my first exposure to real city life - and I loved it.

My first trip to the Civic Arena for a sporting event was in 1997 when I went on a date with my future husband. We were together for a few months, and he had been trying to get me to watch games on TV with him, but I never did because I didn't think I'd like it much. But then I saw a live game.

The pace was maddeningly quick, the athletes' movements were captivating, the atmosphere was like nothing I had ever experienced, and instantly I was hooked for life. We didn't have a lot of money, but back then you didn't need much to get tickets to the Pens games, so we made it a priority to go to at least two games a year.

We both worked for a company that leases a private luxury suite and once even had its name prominently featured along the boards underneath the players' benches! (The logo is long gone; use of the suite still remains.) There was a time when we got FREE tickets once occasionally twice a year to sit in the suite that was, at the time, two suites down from Mario Lemieux's suite. I thought I was pretty stealthy as I'd lean out, snap Mario's picture, and quickly return my attention to the ice as though I hadn't done anything. (Like he even noticed, haha!) Because we had elite access, I spoke to the likes of Robert Lang, Joey Mullen, and Dan Potash in the hallways, and Mario signed woodstock's Russian Penguins jersey in the elevator.

The one thing on this planet my husband loves more than me. ;-P He framed it with some of our Pens ticket stubs and his signed ticket from the 2002 Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational golf tourney in the lower right corner. (I stuck a few PSU ticket stubs on the outside.)

Since we've been married, we try to go to a game on or around our March 17th anniversary. It was in that luxury suite on March 9, 2002, that I was so engaged in conversation with woodstock's boss's wife that I almost missed our names on the Jumbotron in honor of our upcoming first wedding anniversary. (I literally looked up just in time!) It somehow seems fitting that we will be able to spend our tenth anniversary in the Pens' new home.

This is the best image I could get from scanning and color editing my old film pictures. I used to get them with a matte finish, and my scanner isn't seeing them properly. :( This one is from the 03-09-02 overtime win against the Rangers.

Alas, we haven't been in the luxury suite since January 7, 2007 - the game where Sid scored from his stomach (see the previous Mellon post linked above for my video of that goal). Today those tickets, of course, are reserved for the top executives in the company.

This was our view from the Mellon Arena luxury suite.

It's hard to believe that the Pens have only one more chance to win a Stanley Cup in this building.

So many things have happened to us, separately and together, in that building. We will have at least one more chance during the playoffs to see the Pens at the Igloo. And then as Mellon Arena permanently closes, so closes a chapter in my own history.

But with the opening of the new Consol Energy Center, I see potential for so many more milestones with the Pens. I anxiously look forward to each one.

GO PENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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