Penguins fans pack Downtown for parade

| Monday, June 15, 2009

Streets Downtown are being reopened for rush hour traffic after hundreds of thousands of people gathered to catch a glimpse of their on-ice heroes and Lord Stanley's Cup.

Pittsburgh police said as many as 375,000 people attended today's "City of Champions" parade for the Penguins, about 25,000 more than February's Super Bowl victory parade honoring the Steelers.

"You deserve to be called 'The City of Champions,'" said team captain Sidney Crosby. "Thank you all for your support. We don't want to stop at one, we want to go for more. Let's do it again sometime."

There were 23 calls for people needing medical attention and two people transported to local hospitals for hydration issues. Temperatures today reached 81 degrees.

While the crowd was relatively well-behaved, police did issue two citations, including one for disorderly conduct and another for selling T-shirts without a license.

Team members rode through the city in the "City of Champions" parade, which concluded with the players and coaches speaking at a stage near the intersection of the Boulevard of the Allies and Stanwix Street.

The parade culminated a weekend of celebration. Pens captain Sidney Crosby hoisted the cup Sunday at the Pirates game and winger Bill Guerin threw out the first pitch to the delight of 27,565 fans. That followed celebrations outside private parties involving the team Saturday in the South Side.

Guerin, who hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second time after winning it in 1995 with the New Jersey Devils, also thanked the fans.

"This has been an incredible journey for not just myself, but my family," Guerin said. "I remember when the general manager of the Islanders told me I had been traded to the Penguins — talk about upgrading. It was a unique opportunity and situation. For the first time in my life I am almost speechless. Thank you for bringing me here and making me a part of this team."

Fans lined up before 5 a.m. and by the time the parade started at noon, some spots were packed 20 people deep.

"The Penguins are my team," said Stephane "Roots" Rocine, a fan for the past 25 years, who drove 12 hours from Montreal. "They have a lot of heart."

Josh Davis, 27, of Mt. Washington showed up Downtown at 5:30 a.m. donning a Sidney Crosby jersey he wore for seven weeks without washing.

"It's a bad omen to clean the shirt," he said.

Davis also was carrying a puck from Game 4 he said landed in his lap.

"I'm going to keep it as a family heirloom," he said.

Beth Karos sat in front-row fold-out seats with her husband to watch the team go by.

"We lived in Maryland last time and couldn't be here for the parade, so we didn't want to miss it this time," said Karos, 48, of Mars.

Karos said the Penguins championship is great for the city.

"There are people Downtown spending money, eating food, all that good stuff," she said. "Maybe it will help our image with the rest of the nation."

When Evgeni Malkin went by, they cheered for him, his family and borscht.

The majority of those in the crowd are in their 20s and 30s, but there also are many teenagers and parents with their children. Businessmen lined their office windows.

Jennifer Lang, 29, of Plum brought her 13-month-old son, Jacob, who was wearing a Penguins shirt. Lang remembered watching Pens games when she was little and said she wanted her son to witness the event.

"I wanted to be able to bring him out to see this. He's been clapping when everyone was clapping," Lang said. "A lot of people are here and everyone's been so nice and polite."

Many came from out of town to celebrate the team's first Stanley Cup victory in 17 years.

Lori Wolfgang, her husband and three children drove in from Detroit, where they attended Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, to attend the parade.

"We've been circling from Detroit, Cincinnati to here," said Wolfgang, 36, of Detroit. "We love the Penguins."

Today's parade took the same route the Steelers did after they won their sixth Super Bowl title, proceeding down Grant Street, looping to the Boulevard of the Allies and ending at Stanwix Street.

Mike Banas, 41, of Scott stood on a step ladder along Grant Street to get a better view and camera angle. He learned that trick after the Steelers parade earlier this year.

"Framing the bottom of pictures with the tops of heads doesn't exactly add to the quality," he said. "I'm a big hockey fan so I want a picture of everyone. There are a million photos of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but not as many of Eaton and the Rob Scuderi's of the world."

David Sedpak, 25, of Bloomfield said everyone in the crowd is getting along great.

"We're all here for the same reason," Sedpak said. "There's no conflict of interest. We're all here because the Pens won."

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