Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dark Ages

We're not so far removed from being the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL.
Actually, three years ago, we would have killed to have Tampa's potential.
But at the time we post this, the Lightning's record indicates they are the worst team in National Hockey League.

It was a long road from the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pens next playoff berth in 2006-2007 and the eventual SCF appearance last season.

It is what we look back on as the Dark Ages. 2001-2006
The Pens combined record during that time was 100-178.
Consider that during the previous four years, the team's record was 157-113 and that the previous 11 years the Pens were in the playoffs, and you know why we consider it the Dark Ages.

Casual fans abandoned the team.
Diehard fans were happy to see a scoreless first period.
Running a blog would have been a lesson in Cynicism 101.

Blogging wasn't even in the picture for anyone.
If you didn't do message boards, there was no online community.

Searching the internet, most people used a combo of Geocities/Tripod to get Pens news out there.
By 2003, everyone killed themselves.


Everyone has their favorite Penguins story, whether it be a game you were at or the time you hooked up with someone from the Pens Patrol.


Our favorite story comes from a jobber game on March 8, 2003.
The Penguins (25-34-4-5), clearly out of the playoffs, hosted the Senators, then the NHL's top team.

The game brought us one of the last of Lemieux's highlight-reel goals:

2:00 mark.

With 5 minutes left, and the Penguins losing 5-1, Mellon Arena was nearly empty.
Roughly 3,500-4,000 fans remained.

We start up a LET'S GO PENS chant that, within moments, entices the remaining fans with us to join in. It was a surreal experience. The old Mellon booming with the voices of 3,500 fans chanting. It went on for a good 30 seconds or so, and then Rico Fata probably went offsides, which dissipated the chant.

We thought nothing of it when we left the arena that night.
We weren't thinking about it when we picked up the Post-Gazette the next morning.
But we experienced one of our very first STUNNED moments towards the end of the game recap article:

Alfredsson closed out the scoring at 14:42, leaving the Penguins with nothing but a surprising level of support from the crowd.

"The fans were great," Lemieux said. "It's nice to see that they're being patient. From what I saw, our fans, our real fans, were here and supported us." -- PG

It gave us a swell of pride that no one really understood when we told them.
No one cared.

Nowadays, when the Pens drop 3 of 4 and rumors of Michel Therrien being fired are ridiculously being circulated, we think back to that moment in time.

Most fans of other teams despise us as a fanbase because they think we don't realize how spoiled we have been. In the past 25 years, we have seen Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Coffey, Barrasso, et cetera, and we currently get to watch a couple players on their way to claiming their sure spots in the Hall of Fame on a nightly basis. Throw in a couple Cups in there, too.

We realize how blessed we have been.
Most hockey cities can only dream of what the past 25 years have brought us.

Nevertheless, the past 10 to 12 years have been marred with discussions about the Penguins leaving town. Hell, we're not even two years removed from there being a D-Day in early March 2007.

Maybe you're new to the Penguin fanbase with the emergence of Crosby and Malkin.
Maybe you have no clue who Ramzi Abid is.
There's nothing wrong with that.

If people admit to that instead of walking around like pompous idiots who say they know everything about hockey, the world would be a better place.

But every sportsfan lives to tell the tale that we're about to unravel; the tale of fans who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.


What was all that preamble for? It's a cheap attempt to get you into the frame of mind of what being a Penguin fan was like between 2001-2006, when your dedication to the Penguins was tested every night like it was a Game 7.

It's time to look back at the times and players of the Dark Ages.



Picture: New coach Rick Kehoe all business.
What a headset.

Wednesday, October 3, 2001.
The season gets underway, Jagr-less, against the Avalanche.

Lemieux gets injured opening night. Season.

The Pens start the season 0-4.
They have a 6-game winning streak in late January.

Dan LaCouture was the only Penguin to play all 82 games that season.
Robert Lang led the team in plus/minus with a +9.

The ultimate model of ineptitude, Milan Kraft (left), saw his first real chunk of ice time in a season, playing 68 games.
That's Randy Robitaille on the right. We had to look it up.
Kovalev is contemplating opening an account on Justin.TV.

Look at Kris Beech dominating.
That -25 made Alka Seltzer go out of business.

Kovy led the team across the board with 32 goals, 44 assists, 76 points.
So you knew he was gonna be traded soon.

If we ran a blog back then, our self-regulated "don't job Gonchar" policy would have been a Don't Job Jan Hrdina policy.
24 goals, 33 assists, 57 points. Probably won some big face-offs.

Every game wasn't against the Devils. Morozov joke.

Krzystztyfftof Oliwa led the team with 150 penalty minutes.

Friggen Kevin Stevens played 32 games that year.
1 goal. 4 assists.

What is Hans Jonsson even doing.
On any other team, Johan Hedberg's 2.75 GAA and .904 SV% would have mattered.
The Pens went winless in their last 10 games of the season.
They finish the season 28-41-8-5, last in the Atlantic.
This was only the beginning.



Kehoe would be fired at the end of this season.
You will see why.

After suffering the first playoff-less season in 10+ seasons, we were all still naive about where things were headed. Craig Patrick was asleep at the wheel.
It was reality-check time in the 2002-03 season opener at home against the Leafs. The Pens get clobbered 6-0. It's bank to guess that Sundin had two goals at least.

P.S. -- Home opener wasn't a sellout.

A big-time tilt early in the season against the Wings in Detroit:

During a stretch in November and December, the Pens went 4-16-1.
The Pens ended the season on a 2-17-2 tear.

That season-ending debacle was aided by the Pens trading away Kovalev.
Who did we get in return?
Rico Fata, Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner, and Mikael Samuelsson.

There was not even a fort left standing for Pens goalies to hold.

During some stretches of the season,
the only reason you'd watch was to see Johan Hedberg flip out after a goal.

Lmeieux was beast city that year.
Such an underrated season.

Marty's days were numbered. He popped in 18 goals that year.

Steve McKenna led the team in penalty minutes.
Oh, and his 9 goals were tied for 4th-most on the team.

Alexandre Daigle scored a goal in three consecutive games in early November, a highlight of the season. The Pens lost all three games.
Then he disappeared. See, it's coming back to you now.

Kent Manderville played all 82 games that season.
How did we even survive this?
He was a center. Scored 2 goals and 5 assists.

Jamie Pushor brought up the rear with a -28 on the blue line.

How bad was this season?
Some dude named Dan Focht played 12 games and was a -3.

But that was enough to earn him a Geocities fanpage. DAN FOCHT


Here is a preview of the season from some Pens Geocities page called HITTING THE TWINE:

Speaking of the playoffs, the Pens will be in them. Not only is everyone picking them last in the conference, many do not give them a chance to even compete. Although they have a "young" lineup, the Pens have tons of leadership that is invaluable. They have no pressure, and if they do make the playoffs, Eddie Olcyzk should win the Jack Adams award as Coach of the Year.

Opening night of the 2003-04 season was when the light at the end of the tunnel wasn't a train coming for your balls.
It was actually a beacon of hope:

Pens get outshot 49-11. They lose 3-0. One was an empty-netter.
Regardless of what the rest of that first season for MAF was like, this game showed he was a big-time performer.


Once MAF was sent down due to money issues, it wasn't pretty.
Hope was lost.

Going into their December 18th tilt in Carolina, the Pens were 8-16-4-2.
What was to follow probably changed your outlook on life.

From December 18, 2003, to February 22, 2004, the Pens record was:

Read that again, for every Pens fan's sake.
The back end of that remarkable run saw an 18-game losing streak.

If you've been with us so far in this look back at the Dark Ages, chuckling deliriously,
then you no doubt remember where you were during the wee hours of Wednesday, February 25, 2004, when Rick Jackman ended the losing streak in Phoenix with an OT goal.

But there was reason for hope to end the season. Somehow.
The Pens used the win in Phoenix to spark a season-ending 12-5-3-0 record.
It saved Edzo's job.


Lemieux played 10 games.

Team-leading 52 points. -37.
Can't knock Tarnstrom. He was doing what he could.
If he plays with Lemieux in his prime, 65 PP goals easy.

Lasse Pirjeta led the team with a dazzling +3 in 13 games played.

Koltsov played all 82 games that year: 9g-20a-29p.
We've thrown him under the bus too many times already.
If he walked into your house, you wouldn't know who he was.

Brooks played in 79 games that year.
Free Candy: not so much. -36

Ryan Malone played in 81 games: 21g-22a-43p.

Scuds played 13 games, +2 city. What a player.

Folkhero Dan Focht played 52 games and was -23.
But that didn't stop someone from buying his shirt.

And finally, we go to a number that still sends chills up our spine.

The record is -82 set by someone who we don't care to go to the other tab and find his name again.

The year ended at home, and Edzo went on some rant about how the Pens were making the playoffs next year.



Fox Sports video recap:




Coming out of the lockout, things started to happen.
It all started when the Penguins won the rights to Bing. It is kind of hard to believe that if thE lottery ball wouldn't have come out for the Pens, we might not be writing this.

Edzo was given to the keys to the Pens future, but the bad times weren't over yet.

The Pens got off to a horrible start, and Edzo was fired after going 8-17-6.
He was replaced by Lord Therrien.

Mario played his last game by the time 2006 rolled around.

The vaunted duo of Mark Recchi and John Leclair were awful.

Recchi was traded to Carolina for mud.
LeClair -- no one knows why he was even signed.

Zigmund Palffy added his name to Penguin lore by signing a huge free-agent contract then retiring in the middle of the season because he said his shoulder hurt.

Another huge free agent signing didn't get off to a good start either:
But he took his lumps like a man and stuck it out.
What a human/player.
Remember that coast-to-coast goal against the Devils in OT?

The defense was a disaster. And that led to one of the greater meltdowns ever midway through the season:

Jocelyn Thibault.

Looking at the roster, it is hard to fathom what was even going on.
On one hand, Craig Patrick was trying to rebuild. On the other, he was signing all these clowns.
What a lack of direction.

But don't blame Lasse Pirjeta.Another 25 games played and a solid +4.
Not going to lie: we still wish he played here, because all the "Lassie" photoshops would have been a good time.

Future gameday character.

Some of the players on the team didn't make sense.
Tomas Surovy, a staple of the Dark Ages, had 12 goals and 13 assists. He sucked.

Shane Endicott: 41 games played. -9.
What a joke.

And how could we ever forget:

That's it. We're not gonna do some dramatic conclusion.
We're living it.


We used the links up in the NHL RESEARCH section of our links.----FLASH IS BROKE
Also, the Post-Gazette online archives is a dangerous place to be.
You can almost never get out.
We have a new-found respect for the PG. Smizik is a joke.

There's not enough room on a single blog to touch upon everything that happened during the Dark Ages.
Please help us out in the comments. For everyone.


stokes said...

what. a. post. EPIC.

I blocked alot of that crap out of my head, but its good to see again and get some perspective. great job, Staff.

Now i'm gonna be late for work.

Ice said...

staff just buried it.

rebecca said...

absolutely fanfuckingtastic post.

sven butenschon said...

Staff = all business

I just threw up my frosted flakes
Dan Focht
and the worst pens pics ever
McKenna wearing a C
You got to fucking kidding me

The Big K said...

One of the better posts in the history of the Gore.

EnsErmac said...

This post brought to you by chatter during an EASHL game that we were mud in...

dhudzin said...

I love the pic of Stephane Richer at the end of 2001-2002.

Another 2003-2004 video

Shane Endicott?

Kova27 said...

Two points.

1. The only NHL I've come across to share my birthday is Ramzi Abid.
2. I got my picture taken with Morozov and Dan Focht at Seven Springs. They were there for the traveling hall of fame exhibit. It was great, the previous game Focht got drilled and hit his face off the ice so he has some nice stitches on his face for the pic.

Todd said...

I figured I would open up tPB this morning to read a quick post on degenerate gambling or something similar, only to find an epic post chronicling the dark times in the Pens not so distant past.

You really have to get to those depths before you can appreciate how good this team is right now.

Antonette said...

I still blame all of my problems in life on something fucking stupid Shane Endicott did.

Hand of Godard said...

Great doesn't begin to describe this post. I try not to remember the details of 2001-06, just remember that things sucked, it felt shitty, and I should really appreciate what we have now and not take it for granted. If I ever find someone wearing that Dan Focht jersey, all of their drinks are on me.
In regards to the Lemieux video, number 4 still gets my eyes moist and number 2 gives me an erection.
My Lemieux moment came in 7th grade at BladeRunners in Harmarville. My parents were nice enough to sign me up for the Mario Lemieux hockey camp there and on the last day Mario was there to take pictures and sign autographs. When my moment came to meet him and get a picture with him, I was just so nervous and in awe of him that the only words I said were 'hello' and 'thank you' but it was something I'll never forget.

Nick Saia (usa) said...

its a good thing i was drunk at ASU for the dark ages.

millvalemauler said...

Favorite pensblog post. So many great points made. I got into the Pens around 99 i was 10-11. My first game that i can remember was a playoff game that my brother got tickets to out of ridiculous luck, they handed out white towels and all of them waving at once inside the arena might be why i got into the team like i did. So a majority of my fan days have been absolutely miserable. But they did lead to the excitement of a few #1 picks. We got our first Ziggy, who was always a staple on juiced up video game hockey teams. Not old enough to remember Mario in his prime (though Mario at any time is something to be seen), or any of the cup teams, but i am old enough to remember when student rush was so good it should of been illegal, i got tickets 10 rows from the ice once. A time we were all like holy shit remember the kovalev-lang-straka line, that was awesome. And we can look at out current third line producing ridiculous numbers. Now the Milan Kraft jokes are funny, but there was a time when he was gonna be our savior. Rico Fata was Luis Mendoza (from D2) so fast that you started going to church praying for Pavel Bure. Now it's hard to get tickets to a game, I'm older and could afford season tickets but there's a waiting list, you put up with people who just watched their first game, bought a jersey and want to criticize everything the team does. It's all so worth it. My kids will be watching youtube videos of Malkin completely owning Brodeur, and ill say i was there right behind the net in section C and it was hard to believe. Whether it's '88, '91,'93, '01, '04, or 2008, Go Pens.

By the way i have a Recchi jersey. He is as classy as they come, he was too old, too small, but the dude worked. Just the product of a changing team. He started the trend of buying a box and donating it to charity, Crosby does it now. Guys like him are the reason the NFL, NBA, MLB have absolutely nothing on the NHL, as far as not having complete assholes.

I really have nothing to do at 8am.

Natalie said...

I'm going to be heading out later today to Southpointe to watch the Pens practice. There will likely be 100-200 other people there. On a Tuesday morning in December.

I remember going to practices during weekdays in early winter where maybe 20 people showed up to watch.

Sure meant I ended up with a ton of autographs, but most of them are useless now. Horrible players or not, there were some great guys on the Dark Ages teams.

dying alive said...

Steve McKenna wearing the C? Alexander Daigle? Kent Manderville? And all in one post. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, I don't know if I should be grateful for how far the Pens have come or finally kill myself over the memories of those years. Those were hard times. I get so frustrated when I see people complaining because Sid is "only" scoring a point per game or Geno goes a couple without a goal. People who bitch when the Pens lose three in a row have no perspective at all.

I actually see someone at Mellon from time to time in an Endicott jersey. I'm sure it's the same person because there's no way more than one person bought a Shane Endicott jersey.

Did I hear something about Oliwa being in jail?

dying alive said...

BTW, I think Granny from 2004-2005 could have done better than -46.

P.O. said...

i feel like i was just a guest on Dr Phil and all of the horrible memories that were stuffed away and blocked in my subconscience have been let out... Rico Fata still makes me cringe; a minus 46, unreal...

also HCMT meltdown > Jim Mora "playoffs??"

Steve In Denver said...

This post gets the standing O.


Only the big guy would get 5 goals to equal one spot on a top ten list.

DeathByEmu said...

Wow. What a fat post loaded with gravy. Awesome.

One thing I actually miss from the dark ages, however...
$35 dollar tickets 6 rows back from the glass.

But who wouldn't rather see the Pens beat the Phlyers on TV to clinch the East, than watch Mr. Fata from ice level?

penstone410 said...

holy shit staff.

there goes me paying attention in class today.

i'd say this post is more important than learning about the cold war anyways.

queenofthesky82 said...

Does anybody remember the panthers game where Lemieux fought the other joke ference? Well, he didnt so much fight him as stun him with sheer star power, giving Ian Moran ample oppurtunity to fly vertically across the ice to deal him a crushing blow.

Also, remember when they actually held penguins carnivals? The highlight of my teens was a close encounter of the third kind with Marty Straka, who made an unreal effort to return my sharpie.

kstewy16 said...

Dark ages? What dark ages? I just remember going to sleep one day in 2001 and then waking up when we drafted Sidney Crosby...

Actually I watched almost every game during those days, i cried, i drank, i ate. It was a tough time in my life.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Kovy for Samuellson...for Fleury. Not too shabby.

Matt Gajtka said...

I joined up as a Pens fan at the end of the 1997-98 season, so I had four playoff seasons under my belt, plus Mario's return by the time things went to hell. It would be nice if everyone on the bandwagon now had gone through the Dark Ages as a proving ground for loyalty.

In many ways, I'm glad those years happened. Obviously, they led to Fleury/Malkin/Crosby/Staal, but more than that, they validated that I truly loved the game of hockey and the Pittsburgh Penguins, not just the contagious glow of winning. If you can stick with a team through four years of wilderness after a tremendous run of success, you will be a fan for life.

Also, it's interesting to really inspect the Dark Ages because each of those four seasons demonstrated a unique brand of losing.

2001-02: A team coming off great success the season before loses a key player, but hope is still high.

2002-03: A team convinced that last year was just an aberration and staying the course is the wise move.

2003-04: Hope is lost as all the kids get massive amounts of playing time. Late surge makes everyone think the kids aren't half bad.

2005-06: Faith in the rebuilding process is high, complete with young savior. Chemistry isn't right and team fails spectacularly.

P.S. - Don't ask me to chronicle the 16 different ways to have a losing baseball team because the last 16 seasons of Pirates baseball have melded into one unconquerable abyss to me.

J.S. said...

three words: Vladmir fucking Vujtek.

If I can find a link, I remember the quote from the PPG that he was gonna play on a line - the 2nd line no less - with Straka and Hrdina.


But man, what a scar

btumpak said...

EPIC. Whatev.

Go Pens.

GoncharDestroysCities said...

I'm a long time Pens fan in Nova Scotia. This place is and always has been full of habs and leafs fans. During the dark ages, I took alot of crap from everyone. Strangers actually yelled "Penguins suck" from their cars as I walked down the street in my pens jersey.

I saw an exhibition game here where Rico Fata scored a game winner on a breakaway. I was one of the few that cheered. Now that Nova Scotia is known as the home of Sidney Crosby, you can't walk down the street without seeing someone in a pens shirt or hat. But I know those bandwagon jumpers will never get the satisfaction that I get after a penguins win today, because I cheered through the dark ages. Great post

Allison said...

What a post. Man, this brings back so many memories, like all the ridiculing I put up with during my middle/high school years for parading around in Ranger's and Islander's nation in my Penguins jerseys.

This post brings me back to my first Penguins game March 21, 1999 at the Garden, and brings me full circle back to the Garden for the 2008 playoffs.

I've witnessed some great moments in that stretch. I got to see Mario, Jaromir, Sidney, and Evgeni play in person. I got to see a WBS game during the lockout, one of the darkest years ever. I went to Crosby's first game in the Big Apple, a rare win from the 2005-2006 season.I've gotten to see some sick shootouts. I got to see that sick ass Malone hattrick where he scored in the opening minute of each period. But mixed in with all those great individual memories is the fact that the Penguins were outscored 49 - 27 in games I attended, from 1999 to last season. (So far this season it's Pens 10 - 8)

I'd almost forgotten the 04 - 05 season. I couldn't wait for that season to start, I was so certain that was gonna be the end of all the problems. HA!

Thanks for humbling us as Pens' fans.

Seth Rorabaugh said...

I can't stop laughing at the Hans Jonsson photo/comment.

I remember driving into work one afternoon and listening to them play the Avalanche I believe. Paul Steigerwald referred to Jonsson as a tragedy.

Great stuff guys.

BlacknGold66 said...

Holy testicle Tuesday Staff. You've stunned us again. Unreal.

When I left for the service in 2001:...

-Buries It was still around.

-In Cleveland, if you paid an extra $1 a month to the cable company you'd get all the Pens games on Fox Sports Ohio (pre-Blue Jackets of course). Now Center Ice is $160 a year otherwise I'm screwed. (Worth every damn penny)

-Bill Clement and Gary Thorne were doing games on ESPN.

-I knew the entire roster like the back of my hand.


Was in the service. All I remember is getting long drawn out emails from my Dad telling me about the Steelers. I'd have to write back and ask about the Pens and he'd simply say "You really don't want to know."

But during that time he'd also send emails about MAF, Sid, Geno, etc. getting drafted. He wouldn't tell me about Ramzi Abid, Rico Fata, etc. To this day I thank him for that.

Nov. 8th, 2006 on THE DAY I get home from Japan I bought my sister and I two tickets to the Pens game. I had just flown 24 straight hours but I had to have my Pens. I had to know who they were. I knew about 5 names on the roster. It was sad. I used to know every damn player. I remember watching them win the cups for Christ's sake now this?!?!

We sat behind the glass and watched Nils Ekman set a Penguin record by scoring a natural hat trick in 4 minutes and change.

Yeah... Nils Ekman.

Sure, we still made the playoffs that year... but Sid, Geno, Staalsy, Maf, etc. were just babies.

Now they're just kids. And they're tearing shit up.

What's gonna happen over the next 5 years? GOOD GOD I can't wait to find out!!!

Let's Go Pens!!!

dying alive said...

Oh god, Nils Ekman. Any time I think of him I think of that game where you actually saw his elbow bend the wrong way, and he just went running down the ramp to the dressing room. It still ranks among my most queasy Pens moments of all time, though far behind Kevin Stevens getting his face destroyed or Peter Taglianetti taking a puck off of the nose (IIRC) and an absolute geyser of blood spewing out all over the ice. Gag.

littlemoonboot said...

I was first a Penguins fan since the early 90s as a young teenager and for the rest of the decade. But during a lot of the Penguins Dark Ages -- I was going through so much personal shit and upheaval in my life I really didn't give a shit about the Penguins or ANY hockey for that matter. 2003-04 in particular was the worst year of my life.

I read through all this and realize it was just as well. The Rico Fata Penguins would have been more than what I could handle.

It's also interesting that as things gradually got better for me, same it was for the Pens. Go figure.

J.S. said...

somebody was selling that Nils Ekman jersey for $350. They ended up having to cut that jersey off of him, and if memory is correct they cut up the front of the jersey (around the penguin) and down the sleeve.

Hooks Orpik said...

I definitely agree with the non-jobbing of Jan Hrdina....Even though he would forgo literally a 100% slam-dunk goal to try to force a pass (that never went through) to Jagr or Lemieux about twice a season.

Throughout the dark ages the only Penguins I truly despised were Hans Jonsson and Janne Laukkanen. For a while they were even a pairing. Just thinking about that makes me sad.

wilsmith said...

I'm a better hockey player than Shane Endicott.

I went to a lot of games from ~2002 (when I was able to drive down to pittsburgh myself) on and never saw them win one until they beat the Thrashers at the beginning of last season.

Worst 30 tickets I ever bought.

PenguinsExperience.com said...

That was awesome guys.

PenguinsExperience.com said...

I remember being in high school and having a friend that, for some unknown reason, was a huge Pat Falloon friend. As bad as the Pens were I could always rag on him for owning a Pat Falloon jersey.

Then the Penguins signed Pat Falloon and hell froze over.

M. Vanderlasser said...

Sweet mother of Malkin, what a post!

Staff with the 5-goal game.

The Goon Blogger said...

This is why staff is, and always will be, a big deal.

Just brilliant guys, for real.

caramia said...


I moved to Pittsburgh in 2002 from po-dunk PA and that was the first year I was a season ticket holder.

I waited my whole life to be a grown up and have hockey season tickets, and boy those first few years were rough.... glad I stuck through it.

One of my fondest Penguins memories was the last home game of the 2002-2003 season when every time Hans Jonsson touched the puck half of the arena made this warning siren sound.

Jesse Marshall said...

I don't think you can truly appreciate what is happening with the team right now if you weren't around for the night Minnesota scored 5 goals in the first two periods and the lights went out in the process. A grim reminder that not only did our team suck balls, but our arena was shit and our future in Pittsburgh was as questionable as next years roster.

kstewy16 said...

A friend of mine and I have a soft spot for Rico Fata and Milan Kraft. I don't really know why, but we always talk about them. It's kind of pathetic, but so were the pens for those years. But the other day my friend took it to a new level. He said "I don't know man, this team just needs something, they need like Milan Kraft back or something."
I just fucking died when he said that, I seriously sat at work laughing for a good 10 minutes.

Anyway Kuklas Korner has some shit about Steve Mckenna, here

debrisslide said...

Pens fans are so spoiled. Goddamn. *shudder*

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

Thanks for the links to the schedules and results. Now I can go back and relive every goddamn time I made the trip to Raleigh and watched the Pens lose every time. Except for February 10, 2006, the only time I've seen the Pens beat the Hurricanes in Raleigh. The other games were 11/9/02 (L 3-2, Joshua Jackson beats up a security guard), 11/29/03 (L 4-3, Radim Vrbata wins some dude a lawn tractor), 3/2/07 (L 3-2, Gary Roberts beats the piss out of Tim Gleason in one of his first games as a Penguin), and 10/5/07 (L 4-1 on opening night, and it was horrible. Recchi made sure the Pens didn't get shut out). I'll be heading down there for the Pens game on April 4, so we all better hope the Pens have a playoff spot locked up by then.

And I don't consider a combined 46 goals and 108 points on a last-place team "awful", especially considering that the Pens shipped Rex to Carolina at the deadline. 05-06 was the last decent season LeClair had and the next-to-last decent season for Recchi.

I woke my parents up cheering when Jackman beat Phoenix in OT to snap the 18-game losing streak. The 03-04 season was the first time I'd ever gotten Center Ice, and what a miserable time it was. I think I was rooting for Toronto in the playoffs that season, because Carolina shipped Ron Francis there at the deadline to give him one last shot at a third Cup. I did get to see Francis' last home game as a member of the Hurricanes, a 4-1 loss to New Jersey on Chuck Kaiton Night.

J.S. said...

I'd still welcome Jan Hrdina on this team as a 4th liner. He was and maybe still is a big deal on faceoffs, good on the PK and played decent two way hockey.

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

You know, I saw Milan Kraft score his first NHL goal. It was on October 14, 2000 against the Rangers, the Pens won 8-6, and Jagr scored four goals. That's still the only game I've been to at the Igloo -- I get my in-person Pens fix at road games exclusively.

Matt D said...

oh the memories. thank godard the team has seen the light

'I really belief they goal is to be the worss defensif squad in the leakue.'

'They soff'

Best press conference ever.

Mat said...

Way to go guys!!! What a recap. Posts like this are the definition of why I keep coming back to The Pensblog every day.

I remember being in the building and being able to see SECTIONS that didn't have a single person in them. But this die-hard only fan base helped pave the way for the Student Rush, and the great 2005-06 season, which looked awful on record but showed so much promise.

Great post guys!! I hoped that you wouldn't burn yourself out over the summer, but it happened. That's ok. S*** like that happens sometimes. Good to see that the Pensblog is slowly and surely recovering its 2007-08 form. Oh, and when you get to the All-Star Break, for the love of Jan Hrdina, take a break!! You deserve it after posts like this!!

J.S. said...

wow, I forgot about Pat Falloon.

thanks penguinsexperience.com, I think

diabeticsRcooler said...

Fantastic Post

The thing I remember the most about the dark ages is how delusional all the fans were, it got to the point where I expected us to lose every game so If we were only down by a goal I was thrilled... me and my friends sat around in the cafeteria trying to justify what was going on in the team

At one point my friend Chris claimed that Richard Lintner would be the teams savior

After school, I would go over to my grandpa's house to check the newspaper to see if Dick Tarnstrom had more playoff goals than Marek Zidlicky...

It was pretty much the only good thing going on

bad. times.

Also, I remember ABSOLUTELY HATING everything that Brooks Orpik did his rookie year

he couldn't skate, and All he seemed to achieve was to go WAY out of position about 3-6 times a game to hit someone

What a turnaround for Free Candy

It was all worth it though

debrisslide said...

P.S. When you watch that video of Therrien, you feel like it's all your fault, too. I'm terrified of Michel Therrien.

"Maybe Maxime Talbot, at the end, with one second left." That's Max for ya.

I R A Darth Aggie said...

Like Stokes, I'd blocked a lot of that crap out of my head.

One advantage of living out-of-market is that I didn't really get to see just how awful they where. Just like now, I don't get to see just how sharp they are.

But I still remember thinking "my kingdom for someone with a plus rating" over many of those dark years.

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

That game against the Hurricanes in 2006 (the one I've actually seen the Pens win) was the one that that turned me into a Ryan Whitney fan (and inveterate Whitney defender).

He's going to take over Gonchar's role when Sarge's contract expires, you know.

Allison said...

Speaking of the faulty Mellon- what season was it when the zamboni threw up at center ice? It wasn't that long ago I don't think.

And this post has me dying to get home and dig out the scrap book I kept during thoes seasons. Yupp I cut every single Penguin related article and picture out of The Hockey News and the new york newspapers.

I'm a pack rat and love to go back and years later look at what was being said about a particular player. It can be so ammusing or so tragic.

How can we forget Straka's year from hell?

Megz590 said...

I grew up with the Pens always on in our house, but i'm not gonna lie, I never watched them. I actually sat down and watched my first game when my dad yelled for me to watch the replay of Malkin's epic goal, going through two defensemen and marty brodeur. Quote from my dad, "This kid is going to be something special." Game.

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

Anyone who's ever made or laughed at a Straka-Weight Machine joke remembers his year from hell. But that's what happens when you let Milan Kraft spot for you.

Pops Freshenmeyer said...

And speaking of Milan Kraft, he was Kris Beech before Kris Beech was Kris Beech. Why the hell couldn't Kraft have been the one to get crushed by that weight?

Russ Tundra said...

Michel Ouellet STILL looks like the Geico Caveman.


BlacknGold66 said...

Allison: The Zamboni threw up at the Mellon last year against before loss to the Sharks.

Luckily for me it did because I was too busy chatting it up with Stokes & Co. at the Souper Bowl to realize that we were going to be late.

Here's a clip

That thing got a Hemi?

BlacknGold66 said...


Hand of Godard said...

@Megz - I was sitting in section B directly behind Brodeur for $20 for that game. It was better than sex.

I remember getting all jacked for the 2003-04 season, thinking this was going to be our year. I wasn't just thinking playoffs, I was thinking cup. Those dreams died pretty quickly.

Aubrey said...

Holy crap, staff. This post made my week thus far. Bringing back the memories, the bad ones and...the bad ones. I remember when the highlight of going to the game was when we would yell "MOOSE!" when he made a big stop. Those were the dark years indeed...

But after this post, I think we can all officially move on?

Allison said...

@hand of godard- I'm so glad to learn I wasn't the only one dilusional to think that about that season

Allison said...

*delusional enough

Kraftster said...

What a post, staff. I got chills thinking about the Jackman goal.

If only you had laid off of Kraft. Pens double standarded him right out of the NHL. He's no doubt battling depression as a result, and, last year, his livelihood was nearly taken away -- He was booted off his Czech team for something like not caring. Thankfully Slavia Praha HC picked him up and he has an assist this year. Sure, his bad skating would present a challenge for him in the NHL, but, his finish to that 03/04 year was something special. Definitely deserving of more time in the NHL. Sadness. Don't forget that the dark ages still live on in the lives of some of those Penguins.

Daniel said...

Word. I began watching the Pens full-time (yay Center Ice)after the '01 playoffs. This post sums up all the memories I had of the team to this point. I've watched just about every game since (stupid blackouts and not having NHLN induced many fits of rage). I even took it pretty good from the Philly faithful when I lived in Newark, DE... It was sweet being able to bask in the very few victories against the Flyers, and taunting co-workers. :)

dcbng said...

if those were that dark ages(and they were, then pause for a moment while I go Jurassic on you, as this is what I saw as a young boy.
Ken Schinkel
Glen Sather(at the end of his time)
Ron Schock
Greg Polis
Al Smith(the hole-ly goalie)
Bryan 'in the box' Watson
Jean Pronovost and Syl Apps made watching games almost bearable. But they still had Rutherford in goal.
Add Stackhouse and Kehoe and the Pens almost made the playoffs.
Only to be destroyed by the aquisitions of Awrey, Nolet and Van Imp.
God, I hated the early 70's.

And for the record, the Pens never won a thing until they got rid of Moe Mantha

JJ Veshio said...

im one of those guys who lived through EVERY SINGLE game those seasons.. i even have some games from 03-04 on tape because i wanted some hockey to watch during the lockout

that shit was rank. but it makes me more of a fan now to see where the team was at and where it is now... of course i also get pissed when i hear bandwagon fanboys/girls cheer and jeer the team now.

but whatever.. we lived through kelly buchbergers one goal and can be happy to watch sid/malk destroy

dcbng said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dying alive said...

It's funny what a roller coaster being a Pens fan has been for those of us who have followed the team for a long time. I became a fan around the time they drafted Mario because my dad was a fan (which is why, even though I was only 8 years old at the time, I don't job people who only became Pens fans when they drafted Sid). That was great. Then the team stunk for a few years. Not so great. Slowly but surely they started winning and eventually won two Cups. Great! Then they vomited in the playoffs with their best team ever and didn't win a third. Not so great. Mario had to retire because of his health...but we still had Jagr. Then we traded everyone for a bag of pucks because of financial problems. They had a long playoff run...followed by years of misery and a lockout. Mario came back...then he left again, still with health problems. Then they drafted a bunch of stars - Fleury, Sid, Malkin, Whitney...but just as the team was getting good again, they were on the verge of leaving the city because of the arena deal. Now *there* is something that few sports fans will never understand. The anguish of the possibility of seeing your team leave town. Browns fans know it, Sonics fans know it, and a few others. But it is the worst feeling in the world.

That is how I spot a bandwagon fan. It doesn't really have much to do with how long they've been a fan, more like those who have NO IDEA of the suffering that we've been through over the years. People who make a big deal out of someone having a little slump, or the Pens having a bad game or two. People who are ready to trade Malkin because after carrying the team for months, he doesn't have a great SCF. People who are ready to give up on a 20 year old player because he's a "bust." Those people have no clue.

dying alive said...

Fave Penguins moment of all time (aside from Cups): someone changing the Heidelberg sign on I-79 to say "Hedberg" during his playoff run.

The Zamboni threw up at the Mellon last year against before loss to the Sharks.

Nationally televised on NBC. Ha!

ACB* said...

Have to agree with everyone on this post...epic. I started school in Blowhio starting in 2001 and keeping track of the pens online made it much easier to hammer down 30 packs of natty light in my shitty dorm room.

brett said...

wonderful post. Really brings things into perspective.

Jan Hrdina is one of my favorite players all time. I have signed pics and pucks.

J.S. said...


similar topic going on at HFBoards, with a bunch of names that we missed.

Cornelieus (Lyle Odelein)
Steve Poapst
Ryan Vandenbusche
Matt Hussey

coffeytalk said...


Where's my man, IAN MORAN?

I don't care how hard I get jobbed for that (that's what she said) but man oh man I loved Ian!

so thanks for nothing, dicks.

love and kisses,

QUIN$ said...

that post was amazing...i was like 9-10 during the Dark Ages and I remember being like the only kid in my school that cared about the pens, no one even knew who Hrdina was. Then the 06-07 season rolled around and I cant believe the amount of dumbass bandwagon fans walking the halls. Only true quins fans remember the dark years of the early 2000's.

dying alive said...

I still think that Ian Moran looks just like Tackleberry from the Police Academy movies.




fleuryous said...

Take it from the Brit-Brit documentary:

YOu can't appreciate the great until you've gone through the terrible.

(Yeah, I quoted Britney Spears, get over it.)

The Therrien video is painful. Oh man. But, he tells it like it is.

We are spoiled...but, luckily our guys want to be here, and they'll hopefully stay for a while.

SOLID post, staff. More than solid. There are no words.

Is this the year?

Go Pens.

wilsmith said...

coffeytalk, Ian Moran is a hero in my circle of friends. he had 2 particularly great moments that come to mind.

he blew a tire and gave some guy a breakaway that one time, I cant think of who it was, but they buried it. hilarious.

one time he just screamed at some guy who was about to take a shot. what better way to defend?

If someone finds either of those videos, I will give them something. probably a thumbs up or a high five, but it's something.

coffeytalk said...

i love you dying alive.

if only i had known the art of photoshopping back in those days....

coffeytalk said...

I've been trying to find Moran videos.

I remember the yelling as a way to play defense. Also, I want to find video of him being mic'd during a game and he just sings songs as he skated 'round the ice.

If I could get my hands on a Moran jersey, I would wear it every day.

BlacknGold66 said...

Annie, I'm with you in being an Ian Moran fan.

Cleveland native (which I know will bring the hate), nicest guy off the ice.

His Dad still lives here and he and my Dad kinda became buddies when he was with the Pens. He still gives us updates on Ian and how he's doing.

Good people.

coffeytalk said...

well, how is Ian and how is he doing, bng?

that's the awesome.

BlacknGold66 said...

Annie again:

Take a little bit of this and sew it into your current jersey of choice.

That way, you'll always have a piece of Ian with you.

millvalemauler said...

@coffeytalk - Ian Moran was awesome. He had some of the nicest hair i've ever seen. Metro hair before it was cool.

Can someone tell me why Pesonen gets called up before Minard and Taffe?
I'm not being smart i just don't know. I would love to see one of those guys up if the opportunity arises. And i know Minard is a center, but Taffe is a LW just like Pesonen.

samsaidhey said...

Man...I live in Ottawa, so from the time Mario came back I had Centre Ice so I could watch the Pens games (I wish to hell they had Centre Ice back when I was younger so I could have watched Mario over the years) So needless to say I forced myself to watch those games beginning to end as i was shelling out the cash to watch them... so frustrating...this recap was hilarious with those players - i remember HATING endicott, making excuses for frikin beach, Focht was just shit, Man that was such a crapola time - lacouture was another of those edzo favorites - it still amazes me the amount of junk players they iced during that time - seriously it was exciting if someone scored 10 goals in the year.

coffeytalk said...

I should make a patch work jersey of ridiculous Pens favorites.

It will be like an AIDS quilt, but sewn together with clean needles.


fleuryous said...

Annie, you're ridiculous.

dying alive said...

Crappy Pens blast from the past: Roberto Romano.

Schide said...

@Allison-"And this post has me dying to get home and dig out the scrap book I kept during thoes seasons. Yupp I cut every single Penguin related article and picture out of The Hockey News and the new york newspapers."

What have you done?

I have something like 10 year's worth of The Hockey News just sitting there, doing nothing worthwhile, and a day in which I don't really have anything important to do.

Well, time to get the scissors...

IceCold... said...

wow, that was a cold slap in the face of the days forgotten. i appreciate today's post staff. we need to never forget where we came from. it makes these days that much sweeter.

however, i'm not gonna dwell and pull out some memories from those days. i'll stick with the ones from the 90s going to games with my uncle when he had a mullet just like jagr and watching the games at my granma's listening to lang and steigy.

Allison said...

seeing that game worn swatch inside a card reminds me... just last month I opened up a new pack of cards and out falls one with part of a practice jersey worn by: VILLE NIEMINEN!

And I loved seeing my man Marc Bergevin in that montage video... I don't care what type of jobbing I get for this, he was one of my fave Pens ever.

Lady Jaye said...

Pensblog = all business

Is it sad that I remember watching most of the games in the Dark Ages but I don't actually remembered what happened ;) It's like little blips of light: Oh I remember that guys name! What did he do, what did he look like? Does it matter?

I do, though, remember being at that last game with Edzo's speech and really feeling pumped up for the next season. I also wanted to buy a Malone jersey that year and now I'm glad I saved my money. ;)

Allison said...

hell yea i just drove home from school for my 2 hour break just to go through this book.
It is gold.
I wish I could share everything in it with all of you, cause some of these pictures and interviews are worth 5million words each.

Some of my favorite headlines from the scrapbok: (in no order)
1)Fata making believers out of critics, Pens
2)Pens coach terminated by brother
3)Talent needed immediatly
4)Best Mario option? A trade. (joe starkey, kill yourself)
5) Nolan interested in Pens' coaching job (imagine the fun staff would have with this)

And I think Ville Nieminen said it best, "It felt like being a wimp. You know you're going to get beat up eery night."

Kimberlass said...

Why does the lockout feel like it was a hundred years ago, letalone anything before it? I guess thats how memory repression works. It hurt a little to read this but I guess we need to remember what we're coming from.

I planned on having a normal day but now I'm going to watch Kovalev videos for a couple hours.

coffeytalk said...

I was given the gift of a link to a Moran jersey on ebay.

you better believe i'm bidding on it.

coffeytalk said...

eff. i keep getting outbid already....

who else could want that jersey more than me? besides maybe ian himself?

Carroll said...

WOW, sorry I didn't experiene your dark ages but I lived my own hell in Leafs Nation growing up. (with no cable or satelite, no other options but the Leafs)

Now I have substituted that with Sens Nation(it's okay to pity me).

I will truly admit that I became a Pens fan since the Lottery. If the Pens hadn't won Sid I may never have looked towards the Pens. And it's not because he's hot but because I watched him grow up in the Canadian limelight.

J.S. said...

"he blew a tire and gave some guy a breakaway that one time, I cant think of who it was, but they buried it. hilarious."

Roenick, when he played for Phoenix. I'm sure if I searched the Post Gazette archives, I could find more.

Roenick came down the left wing, Moran goes down, Roenick takes shot, and boom goes the dynamite.

Not sure how I remember that, and wasn't Moran scream more of a shriek?

kstewy16 said...

haha, listening to Moran during the mic'd nights sing Metallica was probably the highlight of my younger years as a pens fan. Thats sad.

zackaroo27 said...

epic post, it was. i had almost forgotten about some of those pitiful moments.

oh and by the way, it is almost disgusting to look at the allstar game voting. carey price is beating fleury and koivu is beating crosby and malkin? damn canadiens.

dying alive said...

I am sitting here at work with tears streaming down my face trying not to LOL thinking about Moran screaming at opposing shooters.

wilsmith said...

yes, js, it was more of a shriek.

we adopted it for all our roller and ice teams in high school. works great

Rage said...

@dcbng-you should talk to Akus. She went to games from 1967 and up with her Dad. That girl has been with the Pens thru some tough times and if anybody could give "fan lessons" it would be her.


Allison said...

@dying alive - that's ok cause I just started laughing in the corner of a class where we are watching All The President's Men.
If tape of Ian Moran doing that existed, it would make me so incredably happy.

Robert Ullman said...

Epic post, staff. Highest possible compliments. I'm stunned.

I'm old enough to (just barely) remember the Miracle on Ice, and suddenly a hockey fan, I picked the Pens as my team. I liked the Steelers and Pirates, so it was a no-brainer. Make no mistake, I celebrated the Cup wins, but having no access to anything but box scores in the paper the next day, I didn't really become a devoted follower until '92, when I moved out of my folks house and to Kent State, where you could actually watch a game on KBL. It's been an obsession ever since. The 90s, while often heartbreaking, were a thing of consistent beauty and magic. I don't know how you could follow that team and not be a fan for life.

The 'aughts? Certainly less so. I kept the faith best I could. Now in NC, I listened to lots of game thanks to the Gore. Was at the game where 66 scored right off the faceoff. It was Dec., early enough to believe we were in the mix. Soon after, the wheels came off. Remember clearly cheering the victory vs. Carolina in '03 that kept us out of deal last place. Sigh. Good times.

I even did this strip in March of '04, maybe the darkest of the dark days. Still, we had the Baby Pens playing for the Calder Cup, so all was not lost.

And anyway, those four years of garbage got us this juggernaut we're gonna enjoy for the next fifteen. I'd say that's a fair trade.

Go Pens.

GodILoveHockey said...

Oh man, seriously great post.

I remember being so excited for Surovy, thinking he has some potential for greatness when he scored a goal every now and then.

debrisslide said...

Has anyone talked about Endo yet? He plays in Japan and probably lives in some lunchbox apartment made entirely of marijuana. I love him.

Allison said...

A lunchbox apartment made entirely of marijuana... Filled with broken furniture! I'd link to the video but I'm on my phone. But I'm sure if you're that much of an endicott fan, you know what I'm refering to.

strakasguitar said...

holy moly, what a killer post. you gentlemen are the shiznit. pensblog in playoff form.

pops said...

ian moran, haha, rocking it in the devil's minor league system, wooooooooooooo

i had some faves, krzysztof oliwa, dan lacouture, milan kraft was our future at one point. jesus. i loved aleksey morozov based on the fact that he loved being a penguin, even on a terrible team. when he scored that one winner and clutched his jersey and showed the logo to the crowd....wow. it could've been fucking john leclair and i would've loved him for doing that for life. so, morozov is the man to me.

dying alive said...

BTW, from the non-dark ages, there's a nice article on Zigomanis on the front page over at nhl.com.

Hand of Godard said...

sigh...Krzysztof Oliwa. How could anyone not love the Polish Pounder (wikipedia has it as hammer, but I remember it as pounder)?

Bobby Brown said...

Staal/Cooke = A's for Dec.

Eric P. said...

Add this to the legendary/classic posts.

A few videos..

The Lemieux-Ference brawl-


McKenna beats up Jody Shelley-


Lange and Errey with the announcing - Vandenbussche vs. McKenna


McKenna vs. Cairns-


Barnaby Breakaway Goal-


Barnaby Taunts Away Crowd-


Lemieux: Immaculate Deflection


Marty Straka - 2 goals in 7 seconds-


Boughner lays out Primeau-


Kovy Buries It-


Jags dangling-




debrisslide said...

Allison, that broken desk in Colby/Endo's apartment cracks me up every time I think about it. What pigs.

coffeytalk said...


i will job you for not learning how to hyperlink.

it's in the blog FAQ.


pops said...

heartbreaking story here,

at the tailend of the dark ages, first year we had sid, right after the lockout, sooo pumped for that season.

it was my senior year in college, and i was hooking up with this great great chick. i mean, definitely a keeper type girl. well, starting that season off on that terrible shnide...it just killed it. here's why. we started out in september and things were great. i was pumped for october. i would watch every pens game with her. they would lose. this would go on every game on that winless streak. the first game i didn't hang out with her? our first W. literally, no joke, this happened a TON. it made me question things. life, even. (jk) but it was never really the same after the beginning of that season with us. the relationship failed miserably, and i always blame it on her making the pens lose. because, really, there are no coincidences.

more importantly, it made me realize how much i loved the pens. no matter how special the girl was. still talk to her. cool chick. but i never hang out with her. game night or not.

The Goon Blogger said...

Morozov's game winner against Carolina is one of the moments I hold dearest as a Penguins fan. That is what being a Penguins fan is all about. It wasn't a "Oh hey we finally won a game," reaction it was a "MOROZOV! *trip over footstool celebrating*" reaction.

I think that's why the Dark Ages are so special to me. They were terrible, but God damn did winning feel great. I won't lie, I turned games off when we were getting taken behind the wood shed, but I still watched.

Really staff, thank you. Not only for reminding us how good we have now with HCMT, King Shero, Gino, Bing, MAF, etc. But for reminding us that even though that team was fucking atrocious, we still cheered for them and hoped Koltsov or Morozov would someday bury 50 with a good center.

The Goon Blogger said...

@Hand of Godard

I'm pretty sure it was pounder too, besides, who doesn't love aliteration?

debrisslide said...

pops, I can't watch games with my boyfriend because every time he has off work during the game, they lose. It's something we're working through. Hopefully we can get his work schedule lucky before playoff time. :D

Jeff said...

Wow some great and horrendous memories. That OT winner after the long losing streak really made the post for me. I forgot just how many games we lost in a row

debrisslide said...

. . .by which I mean, we can get his off-days to be lucky instead. I wouldn't want the poor boy to miss the games.

The Goon Blogger said...

Jan Hrdina currently playing with with Kris Beech over in the Swedish Elitserien on HV71.


Bill said...

Ah, you young pups.

The "Dark Ages" of the early 21st Century may have dragged on a little longer, but they never got quite as dark as a few seasons in the early 80's (I know, I know, that's ancient history, deep in the mists of time to most readers of this blog). But try this on for size: '82-'83 and '83-'84, a combined record of 34-111-15 (let that sink in for a bit); 18-53-9 in '82-'83 and 16-58-6 in '83-'84. Sixteen wins over an entire 80 game season. Sixteen! The Pens "improved" to 24-51-5 in '84-85' after drafting a kid named Lemieux.

And, yeah, the early 2000's saw their share of Janne Laukenens, Rico Fatas and Hans Jonssons, but the 1982 Pens had a bunch of guys with names like Dean de Fazio, Todd Charlesworth, Greg Tebutt(!?) and Tim Tookey(!!), not to mention a 5'6" goalie named Roberto Romano (Ray Romano probably would've been a better goalie) and my all-time favorite, Gary-freakin'-Rissling. Rissling had these incredible totals that season: 4 goals, 13 assists, 297(!) PIM in 47 games. Oh, and he was 5'9", 175 lbs.

Not to mention the fact that the Penguins only went 4 years (not counting the lockout year) without making the playoffs in the early 2000's. Back in the 80's it was 6 years ('82-'83 through '87-'88) before the Pens made the playoffs in '88-'89, only to miss them again in '89-'90. And, back then all but 5 teams in the NHL made the playoffs. So, 7 out of 8 years, the Pens were one of a select handful of teams too pathetic to qualify for a playoff field that 3/4 of the league made.

Just a little reminder that, no matter how bad you think something is, some old fart will come along to remind you that it's been worse.

On final thought: The early 80's "Dark Ages" win any tie-breakers, too. The 2002-2006 Pens never wore yellow jerseys, or worse, yellow helmets (ugh).

pops said...


i wish you guys luck. picking between the pens and her was very tough. but in the end it was a no brainer

The Goon Blogger said...


I think the problem there is that there's more of an understanding that the Penguins were terrible in the pre Mario era. Sure we all love our Pierre Larouches and Syl Apps Jrs but overall nothing really happened for this franchise until Super Mario.

The difference with this is we didn't really expect it. With Lemieux the franchise as a whole turned around, we got better management, better coaching, and better players. There were times the Penguins had chances to draft guys like Steve Yzerman but chose instead to trade draft picks or pick people they new they would be able to sign.

Really, that is more compareable to the sordid affair the Pittsburgh Pirates are dealing with right now.

stokes said...

@ Natalie: I remember when you could go to practically any practice at Mt. Lebanon's Rec Center and see the Pens for free. A handful of people would be there. That's when i got my picture sitting on the lap of Lemieux. I was probably 8 and to this day, is one of the greatest memories of my life.

I Have Kasparaitis said...

Oh the old times ... fantastic post, Staff!

Ian Moran, wow, that's been a while. And the classic picture of Kelly Buchberger ...

Whatever happened to Eric Meloche? And my brother made fun of me for having Malone as my favorite, HA!

I had a strange liking to Drake Berehowsky because he fought every game I went to and I like(d) my D.

It's kinda nice to look back on all these days, even though they were a bit painful. I don't think they were as painful for me, though, I loved watching the games regardless of the outcome. It would have been less painful for me if Kasparaitis and Kovi didn't leave ...

The Goon Blogger said...

@I Have Kasparaitis

Eric Meloche now plays for the Straubing Tigers in the DEL. German hockey. Ha. Joke.

Thomas said...

On a cold January, possibly February, I'm too tired to research, in 2003 my brother and I went to a game against the Oilers. Laraque was for Edmonton and there weren't too many people in the igloo. The Pens force overtime and before the extra five begins I turn to my brother and say, 'Before I die, I want to see Lemieux score a goal.'

Buries It comes through, Pens win.

Under the old student rush I was there every damn game I could. I was there for the dark ages and I will be there always.

Thanks guys for this stroll.

Eric P. said...

Stop being lazy, and copy and paste it.

The Seeker said...

Today's post puts into words exactly why I will bloody my knuckles on anyone's face who calls me a 'bandwagon fan'.
Having suffered thru the Dark Ages only made us stronger, more loyal fans.

Barnaby and Moran were two who at least gave you something to cheer about.

On a lighter note, remember the classic remake of HCMT's Meltdown? 20 questions with Michel Therrien

sonofatruckload said...

madden just said something about sid and geno being the mega powers

KaylaJ said...

ian moran being mic'ed up during fox games was always a treat

funky col hrdina, need i say more?

my biggest memory from the dark ages had to be the trading deadlines, esp of 02-03 where it took about 5 minutes just to get thru all the pens transactions of that day. you couldn't really attatch yourself to any players back then cause you were worried they'd just leave you too. that, being asked if i was still a pens fan, and the moving talk was a bit tough.

think i'm gonna go watch the great day for hockey commercial a few times to wipe rico fata out of my mind.

The Seeker said...

At today's Pens practice, Bing was practicing shots from impossible angles....from his knees, from his butt, between the legs, banking off the goalie, and spin-a-ramas.

Sean said...

Yea, when i think gametime i think lassie and timmy. All i can say is wow.

The Seeker said...

Eric P. said...

Stop being lazy, and copy and paste it.

Or....for the peeps using Firefox, install the Firefox Extension called "Linkification" and it will automatically make clickable links out of plain text links!

runningfox said...

I remember the night that our 18-game losing streak was snapped. I lost a huge bet. I never bet again (at least against the home team).

Nulpher said...

Watch, even after reading this solid recap of this era in Penguins history, someone will still call for Staal's head because he wasn't completely with it for a shift.

Basially Lemieux was the man who sparked the Renaissance by taking ownership of the Penguins, and doing all the correct things needed to keep the Penguins from dying of the black plague. Also, it sometimes pays huge to play the lottery.

Allison said...

oh man, this post and all these comments are great. this made me dig into my youtube favorties and sit mesmorized and with chills, even at the bad ones. And for some reason, the funny one don't even get old years later.

a nice montage of 03-04

The one me and debris were refering to and here

An amazing video of three old Penguins in drag. starting at 2:35

mic'd up montage

Roberts and Recchi go shopping together. How lost does Rex look during the whole thing... until he whips out his huge stack of money.

Allison said...

And yea I fail cause I linked to the same video as dhudzin
wow, twice.
holy shit i fail
i prob relinked others sorry, im gonna punish myself by reading he philosophy book i should be reading anyway.

J.S. said...

How about the jumbotron video for the 2003-04 team?

I think Lemieux was shown twice to distract the fans from who else was about to be shown. It was kinda blurry on McKenna's part, but it looked like they were portraying him as a goal scorer. Then again, he led Penguins defensemen in goals the prior season. C'mon, it sounds right....Coffey, Murphy, Gonch, Whitney, McKenna!

And a LOL @ how fast they blazed past Abid, The Drake, Murley, etc., at the end.

J.S. said...

"But don't blame Lasse Pirjeta. Another 25 games played and a solid +4. Not going to lie: we still wish he played here, because all the "Lassie" photoshops would have been a good time."

"Dark ages" photoshop expo?

BlacknGold66 said...

Commit to the J.S.

Dark Ages photo expo for the win!

Do it Staff!

Anna. said...

Holy shit.
Crazy amazing post.

J.J. Veshio said...

@ The Good Blogger

i still have the carolina and (i believe) rangers games on tape where we won in overtime

i dont care how much the team sucked that year, during the last 2 months of the season, we were fucking gold. morozovs OT goal against the canes when we holds his jersey out made all this torment worth it

Bill said...

@ The Goon Blogger

I hear what you're saying, but my point is that, as unexpected and bad as the early years of this decade were, it was much tougher (and more embarrassing) to be a Pens fan in the early 80's. As you put it, it's like being a Pirate fan today. Most of the Penguin players between 2002 and 2006 were at least borderline NHLers, or career journeymen, even if they weren't all-stars. Back in '82-'83 and '83-'84, the Pens were putting guys on the roster who had no business in the American Hockey League.

And I, at least, didn't expect the Pens to win a measly 21% of their games over 2 consecutive seasons back then. Keep in mind, the Pens had made the playoffs the previous 4 years and were coming off a near-upset of the Islanders (on their way to a 3rd straight Cup) in the '81-'82 playoffs. After that they just sort of, well, fell off a cliff (from 75 points to 45 one season to the next and further, to 38 points the following season).

So, I guess what I'm saying is that, as someone who's lived through both periods, in my opinion, the 80's were tougher to take. (Though that could be because having suffered through the 80's, once the most recent downturn came, I could realize even the worst times don't last forever. Unless, apparently, you're the Pirates.)

eileenover said...

I can honestly say I didn't watch the Pens during the Dark Ages. Mostly because I was a young teenage girl who was only concerned with teenage boys. But I do realize what this organization has been through and I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to watch this team play. Anyone who thinks Pens fans have always been spoiled are fucking delusional. I'm just glad I'm a hockey fan whose team of choice just happens to be the Pens.

powerhouse said...

You know what got me through the dark ages? Memories of the most amazing talent and penguin spirit we have ever known, Mario Lemieux.
Watching those highlights was tears in my eyes blog. He is and always will be a testament to the greatness of this sport. A truely amazing blog that is good on many levels. Thanks for rekindling how we made it through the dark ages.

Stein said...

What a great post! I had forgotten about so many of those players and moments from those years. Does anyone remember Guillaume Lefebvre (#33 I think)he played during the 2005-06 season. Someone said he was full of so much potentialback then...yeah right. But great post. I hope that everyone that has become a Pens fan since we have pulled out of the "dark ages" reads this and appreciates where the team is at now and stays with the team if they ever slip into another "dark age" again. NO BANDWAGON FANS. The team, the city and the die hard fans can't afford it.

wilsmith said...

Any one have any luck finding some Ian Moran videos?

Serena and Chuck said...

What an amazing post.

What amazing comments.

coffeytalk said...

i've only found some shit fighting ones on the 'ol youtube. nothing good so far.

someone out there HAS to have something!


akus said...

I think it is safe to say, once a hockey fan, always a Pens fan, no matter what "Age" it is.

This staff/c-blog shows the dedication of what true hockey fans are.

@ Bill,
How about Sheldon Kannegiesser!

Ole Gary-freakin'-Rissling would fit in with this team now.
Now that you mention him, Cooke has the Rissling look.-

@ The Seeker, wow that linkification is some good shit.

it is what it is.Thanks.

@ sven,
nice threads.

I spent so much time reading the post/ lookin at the stats, i missed what Avery said that lead to his suspension. Whatever. He is a
Class. A. Dick.


Here is hoping we see, The Age of Stanley.

Go Pens.

Docciavelli said...

guess I should chime in with my "fondest" memory from the dark ages:

Dec. 3rd, 2003. Pens at Flyers. Worst v. First. I'm sitting with my pops amidst Flyers season-ticket holders, wearing a nameless Pens "Pidgeon" jersey I self-customized with a cardboard "Kasparaitis" taped to the back of it--just to piss off the Flyers fans.

Less than a minute in, Matt Bradley (!) buries one. I'm immediately out of my seat talking shit to Philly fans. "Jeff Hackett's a Bitch! Matt Bradley? Are you kidding me?" I should've known better.

Later, I remember telling pops that the Pens had "officially hit rock-bottom" when Chris Therien scored on a wrister.

The Pens go on to blow the game 5-2 and I nearly end someone's life (and he mine) in the parking lot of what I believe was then called the CoreStates, or maybe had already changed to the F.U.

Ah, good times, good times. Fuck the bandwagon.

coffeytalk said...

Found that Ian is involved as an executive team member of the Voila Group.

hmmm, his e-mail address is listed.......

cheese said...

This just In:

Avery Suspended Indefinitely

Stars forward Sean Avery was suspended indefinitely by the NHL for comments he made Tuesday about Dion Phaneuf and his ex-girlfriend, who currently dates the Flames defenseman.

J.S. said...

Sean Avery does NOT deserve that suspension. An indefinite suspension doesn't do anything for him. In fact, it might even help the Stars.

He deserves to be matched up shift-for-shift with Phaneuf. MacTavish would do it, and by the sounds of it Tippett would probably be on board with it too.

coffeytalk said...

hmmm maybe there should be an Avery Fails photoshop expo. I've been hoping for an expo of some sort to happen here soon. The Gretzky one was happyfuntimes for sure.

Anna. said...

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

Oh Sean..

brndlynn said...

EPIC post staff. Although I never want to relive those days its not so bad to look back every once is a while. I'll never forget being at a game during the 03-04 season and there couldnt have been more than 1000 people at the Igloo. We ended up scoring and it was so quiet in the building that you could hear the players celebrating over the fans. To compare that to now - wow.

Docciavelli said...

You know, I agree. The league shouldn't suspend a guy for talking about his "sloppy seconds." I mean, yeah, it's distasteful in front of TV cameras, but hey, how many times have we heard the F-bomb over on-ice microphones? Christ, you can't tell me it's any worse than the sort of things Brian Trottier would say.

cheese said...

Also another interesting note from the Gore:

According to the Injury report on TSN, MAF is now listed as being "out indefinitely", when 2 days ago he was listed as DTD.

Hmmm, I sense a Dipietro here.....

Annie said...

This post needs a place in the Best Of section in flashblog. Fabulosa.

We're not gonna do some dramatic conclusion.
We're living it.

Out of the entire thing, that's probably my favorite line. Damn straight. Except it's not a conclusion, is it? We have a hockey team to love and support for the next 30+ years.

My Lemieux moment was in Boston around '02, the only time I saw him play live. My memory has actually gotten worse since college, so I don't remember exactly when it was, or even if the Pens won the game, but Mario played two or three shifts, and made a couple crazy Buries It moves that I'll never forget. Living out in Bruins country, in the middle of the Dark Ages of the Pens franchise, I felt I was just lucky to watch him for a few minutes in person.

J.S. said...

I still think that Trottier calls Bellows a "kid fucker".

kstewy16 said...

I don't get how Avery is suspended for saying "Sloppy seconds" but not for making fun of Jason Blake for having cancer. And the people who make fun of him for being gay, they don't get suspended either.
If the league just wants to pick on him cus he's a jackass, then do that, don't make up some BS excuse as to why he's being suspended.

akus said...

@ coffeytalk,
remembered Ian "played" Chelios in 'Sudden Death'!!

Trash talking?
That is why they suspended Avery? jesus.

Trash talking > Head shots.

So give someone a head shot, we will give you 2-3 games max, talk shit about some sloppy seconds?? INDEFINATELY.
Hmm head shots and sloppy seconds.

Sloppy seconds and thirds, fourths, etc etc. Sean.
Rod Stewart, Tommy Lee, Bruce Willis, Liam Gallagher, Wes Scantlin, Jarret Stoll, all blow You a juicy kiss, via Rachel Hunter.

@ JS,
I thought it was more like "tit" fucker.

Rage said...

I was seriously looking forward to seeing Phaneuf or Iginla end his career tonite...DAMN THE NHL!!!

eileenover said...

I always thought it was tit fucker too. Maybe someone should ask him.

stokes said...

@ J.S.

Even if he does call him a tit fucker, i fail to see how that's an insult.

akus said...

Damn, even the Stars owner would have suspended Avery if Bettman wouldnt have.

Are you kidding me.

OrpikSmash said...

wow what a post.

as sad as it is, i think my favorite memory from that time was the 03-04 opening night against the kings b/c of the flying start free candy got off to. He nailed a vicious knee to knee hit on some joke at the blue line. then proceeded to rush over to the boards and beat the shit out of someone before he was given the game misconduct for kneeing. there was no indication of any talent, but you could tell then that we had a young guy that wouldn't be scared to take someone's head off

i also went to a nationally televised game in 02-03 against the avs which was right after the kovy trade. needless to say i want to kill myself everytime i think of the giant rico fata sign i made.

in 03-04 i also went to a game against the canadiens over xmas break b/c it was buries it bobblehead day. even with the bobbleheads, there was barely anyone there. the pens went on to lose 8-0 and the only reason that anyone stuck around for the 3rd was b/c everyone kept cheering on a fight (that never came)

such sad times

J.S. said...

stokes, and that's my point.

Call most guys a titfucker, and they'll probably celebrate or exchange high fives for that comment. Call somebody a kid fucker and they probably won't approve.

Bellows wasn't probably gaining any approval pts with Bellows by calling him a superstar, and I'm sure he wasn't trying to make up for it by calling him a titfucker.

I don't know. I tried playing it back to back to back times twenty, trying to get a definitive answer, and after all of that, I got nothing.

Bellows = not a superstar
Talbot = superstar (chicka, chicka...)

Hand of Godard said...

I swear Trottier says titfucker. It sounds like he started to call him a name, but couldn't think of anything real quick. Just my 2 cents.
Avery is a fucking child. I actually hate talking about him because he's an attention whore that is really just out of place in hockey. Instead of suspending him, they should have suspended the instigator rule for a game.

sven butenschon said...

I fail to see how tit fucker is insulting
Hardly one of my beer league games go by without that insult being hurled

Anyone want to bet Avery becomes spokesman for The Tourettes Syndrome foundation????

Allison said...

"It's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

First of all Sean, it's not like you had that slut first. Actually, you weren't even the first NHLer she was with.

Second of all, I think this quote would be funnier if he further "seanaveryified" it and said something along the lines of, "for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds...or their sister in laws"

Hand of Godard said...

To clarify: I don't think titfucker is an insult. I just think he said it in the spur of the moment, then probably thought to himself, "What the fuck did I just say?"
It's like the time I got cut off in traffic and yelled "Nice, Dick"
I wasn't complimenting the guy's cock, I was commenting on his driving skills and calling him a dick. Sometimes things just don't come out right.

gpclay said...

Thank you Thank you THANK YOU for putting this together. Wow. Just wow. To go back and relive all that shows that y'all have BALLS AS BIG AS CHURCH BELLS. Now, how about a similar breakdown of the first Dark Ages (1982-1988)? Yeah, they had #66 for much of that time, but man, those teams were seriously bad. I am thinking about getting a throwback Gary Rissling sweater, though (I already own a Rod Buskas cheap replica jersey).

debrisslide said...

Hand of Godard = obviously experienced in trash talking.

Hand of Godard said...

Not one of my proudest moments, but I thought it might help show what I meant.

Andrew said...

Fantastic post, I'm in awe.

The Dark Ages were the time I developed my love of the Pens. My dad and I went to every Baby Pens home game for their first five seasons, until I went to school.

Meloche, Surovy, Kraft, Endicott, Ouellet, Caron, Daigle - those guys were my heroes. And, oddly enough, it was Scuderi I always wanted to throttle when I'd watch the puck sail past his stick for the millionth time on the powerplay

Will said...

Wow, this brings me back. I remember doing student rush all the time back when I was still in high school, during the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons. You could walk up literally halfway through the first period and they practically couldn't wait to give tickets away.

For some reason, I have a specific memory of one of those early-November games in which Alexandre Daigle scored. IIRC, Kent Mandeville had yet to record a single point on the season, and I remember seeing that statistic and my mind being blown.

Just thinking about how good we have it now after that six-year stretch of awfulness makes me wonder what it'll feel like if and when the Pirates are ever good again.

And for the record, there's no shame in banging Elisha Cuthbert no matter how many dudes she's been with. Sean Avery is a douche.

M Parks said...

I lived in MN during the Dark Ages. I couldn't watch the games, but I would check scores, stats, and standings on just about a daily basis.

You know how I knew I was in the Dark Ages? When I would wear my Penguins gear around the U of M campus, or wherever, and I would feel like the guy who wears a random Starter jacket because it is just the only jacket he has. You know what I mean? No regard for the team that the apparel represents, just another piece of clothing to keep you warm. I loved wearing the gear still, but it meant nothing when people saw it. Now I get shit when I wear my Pens gear in MN. And it's great.

The Goon Blogger said...


I can dig it. I was born in 87, so I really got no idea about the experience, can only make my opinion based on the stats.

KaylaJ said...

i think the NHL's issue with avery was he made sure the cameras were around and on when he said what he said so he knew what he was doing. plus i'm guessing showcasing a game of avery vs his sloppy seconds isn't the kind of message the NHL wants to get across.

finally, his own team was gonna suspend him if the NHL didn't, so i'm guessing that the honeymoon with the stars is gonna come to something crashing soon and i hope its turco beating avery's ass.

LeGame58 said...

I didnt know it was possible, but I love this team even more after hearing alot of those names again.

I think 60% of those names now bag groceries at Giant Eagle

akus said...

This was said before the Avery circus,

"Penguins coach Michel Therrien says that Matt Cooke, an enemy in most opposing buildings because of the nasty way he plays, can chirp all he wants on the ice as long as it's in the bounds of good taste. Cooke, Therrien says, has been a great addition to Pittsburgh dressing room. Said Therrien, "He's always communicating with the other guys. A great teammate." ...

Cooke has one of the A's for the month of December.

kstewy16 said...

Sven- awesome picture. Sweet jersey. At first I just saw the blue jersey and 66 and was like "WTF, what a dumbass- Major jersey foul" But then I clicked on it and saw "Buries It"

And the new ps on the main page is sweet. I especially like how Michelle Therrien is a woman lol, either that or a very skinny man...

eileenover said...

I'm sure the Stars, and the league for that matter, have just about had it with Avery at this point. I remember Modano basically saying how much of an embarrassment he is to the team. It's just so obvious how little he cares about the game. Good hockey players do all their talking on the ice. He would be better off working on his game instead of trying to make headlines. He's an absolute joke in the NHL.

EatonFreeCandy4Life said...

I really loved the post today. Great job! It's been quite a journey for the Pens and I can't wait to see where we're headed.

Also, if anyone knows of any "Pittsburgh friendly" places to watch Pens games in Orlando, let me know. Thanks.

KaylaJ said...

eileen from the comments made today from the stars, they are getting tired of the crap and always having to talk about his show. i'm guessing this comment wasn't suspendable for most, but more so the one that broke the camel's back.

eileenover said...

That's exactly what I'm thinking Kayla. I guess that's what happens when you don't make it past 8th grade.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Dying Alive, my whole memory of being a Pens fan post Lemieux version 2.0 was "who the hell is this Rico Fata/Ramzi Abid/Lasse Pirjeta/etc. Those that didn't sit through those trying times will never understand how special a team that we have, nor will they experience the full rush that comes when we finally lift that Cup. How far this team has come will be lost on them, but that's ok...

It's their loss.

11/29/2008 5:56 PM

You people blow me away in your ability to recall games from that period. Reading your memories was just as good as the post by the staff.

I was working the early shift at the Sony plant at New Stanton the winter of 04-05, my days consisted of being at work 6am to 4:30pm, going home, watching that horrendous team and usually falling asleep before the games even ended. I was laid off when the season was cancelled, and shipped off to boot camp at the end of April at Great Lakes. I made it to 'A' school in June, and remember we had to pay ten bucks for an hour of internet time, but on friday, July 22nd, after we were released on liberty, I logged on and checked the Post-Gazette and found out what Craig Patrick's four-leaf clover brought us. I drank myself silly that weekend.

KaylaJ said...

ralph & razor , stars tv announcers, are basically saying the same thing that the stars players seem tired of the crap and even they seem kinda embarrassed they even have to talk about "ex flames" (wah wahhh).

anyone else want to watch the game check out yahoo since its their game tonight

dying alive said...

Wow. Scott Hartnell really is a retard.

Joshua said...

Anybody watching the Flyers? Man is Hartnell a fucking idiot. New low.

pops said...





PENALTY SHOT!!! no goal


wilsmith said...

Please, someone tell me they saw Edzo ripping into Recchi for being a big baby during the TB/Philly game.

and right now Malone is getting a penalty shot because Hartnell threw his glove at him during a breakaway


pops said...

haha. we all thought the same thing. love it


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