BY ZACH LAUFER
The Penguins hosted their final alumni tribute theme night on February 3 as part of the team’s season-long 50th Anniversary celebration.
This was the fourth theme night to commemorate the Penguins’ 50th season, with alumni spanning across five decades of Penguins hockey gathering at PPG Paints Arena for the event. Some notables included Jean Pronovost, Lowell MacDonald, Bob “Battleship” Kelly, Gary Rissling, Ron Stackhouse, Larry Murphy, Bryan Trottier and Ed Johnston.
Each person received a customized home jersey that featured the unique “50 YEARS” logo, which they sported as they were called onto the ice before the game to be recognized.
That recognition went a long way with the players, especially those who played on struggling teams early on in the franchise’s history.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” said Kelly, a 27-goal scorer in 1975. “It’s so hard to describe how much (it meant) for us older guys. The city deserves a good hockey team, and finally after we left, they got one.”
That sentiment was echoed by players like Trottier, who was able to enjoy a very successful and exciting career in Pittsburgh — being a member of the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup Champion teams.
He noted that the earlier teams played a major factor in the Penguins’ success in both this city and the NHL as a whole.
“Those early years were important for the organization,” said Trottier. “A lot of growing pains, some tough financial stuff… But without that era, hockey wouldn’t be here.”
Kelly, who played in the mid-1970s with the organization, was simply excited to reminisce with friends he had not seen in over 25 years. This was his first trip to PPG Paints Arena, but Kelly still felt right at home.
“Pittsburgh is someplace special,” Kelly said. “It’s like coming back and putting on a pair of old slippers, it’s a comfort factor.”
Starting with a group dinner the night before, the alumni attended the morning skate, a luncheon at PPG Paints Arena, and enjoyed a suite to watch the Penguins’ 4-3 overtime victory over Columbus.