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Mario turned the Igloo into his Super dome

| Thursday, April 8, 2010

Legend has it that many nights the stainless steel roof at Mellon Arena nearly popped off because a sellout crowd loudly cheered a spectacular performance by Mario Lemieux, the Montreal-born player who arrived in 1984 and converted casual Pittsburgh sports fans into hockey nuts.

"Voice of the Penguins" Mike Lange, like Lemieux a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, recalled to the Tribune-Review some of Lemieux's most super moments at the Igloo that became Mario's personal Super dome:

THE LEMIEUX DEBUT (10.17.84, Canucks): "(Vancouver center) Gary Lupul was about 5-foot-5 and Mario was 6-foot-4. I don't think anybody expected (a fight), and probably Mario didn't either."

FIVE GOALS FIVE WAYS (12.31.88, Devils): "Quite frankly nobody was aware until the score sheet came down and you looked at it. The first thing you think is, 'Has anybody ever done this?' The actual truth is that nobody said, 'Look, if he scores an empty-netter...' No, it wasn't that way at all."

HANGING 8 ON PHILLY (4.25.89, Flyers): "He had them on the run. It was a very interesting game because Mario just tortured (Philadelphia goalie) Ronnie Hextall. He picked his pocket. It was, like, 'Wow!' You have to understand that this was a team that had just beaten us year after year after year."

THE GOAL (5.17.91, North Stars): "In all likelihood it was (the greatest goal scored at Mellon Arena). Not the most dramatic. That was the one he scored against Chicago in the first game of the '92 Final. That was the most dramatic goal of all time in this building."

RAISE THE ROOF (5.26.92, Blackhawks): "It sounded like the roof was open. As I said that night, it was so loud I thought you could hear it all the way in West Virginia. It's one of the few goals in my life that actually brought me out of the chair I was working in. I stood up, literally ripped my headset off halfway trying to call the goal."

FIVE FOR AUSTIN (3.26.96, Blues): "That night Mario just was in his hockey world. That's the best way I could describe it, and you knew it from the start. It was almost like a dedication to (infant son, Austin). Mario was just so smooth and graceful. It was the epitome of him at his best."

THE FIRST LAST GOAL (4.23.97, Flyers): "For me it was special because I honestly thought that was it. I didn't think he was coming back. I didn't think that was anywhere in the realm of possibility."

THE COMEBACK (12.27.00, Maple Leafs): "It happened right off the bat. He came down and set up a goal, and it was, like, 'Whoa.' It was like he never missed a beat and you just shook your head. We were really starting to get into a heavier following for Mario at that time. It was almost like a Stanley Cup game, that was what the feeling was like."

And then there was ...

Six before 66

Trib staffers and Penguins broadcasters pick a goalie, two defensemen and three forwards whose stars shined brightest before Mario Lemieux arrived in 1984:

Denis Herron (Goalie, 1972-79/1982-86): 290 games, 88 wins, 133 losses, 44 ties, 3.87 GAA

Dave Burrows (Defense, 1971-78/1980-82): 573 games, 24 goals, 108 assists, 132 points

Randy Carlyle (Defense, 1978-84): 397 games, 66 goals, 257 assists, 323 points

Rick Kehoe (Right wing, 1974-85): 722 games, 312 goals, 324 assists, 636 points

Pierre LaRouche (Center, 1974-77): 240 games, 119 goals, 134 assists, 253 points

Jean Pronovost (Right wing, 1968-78): 753 games, 316 goals, 287 assists, 603 points

Source: Pittsburgh Penguins media guide

Six other than 66

Trib staffers and Penguins broadcasters pick a goalie, two defensemen and three forwards whose stars shined brightest after Mario Lemieux arrived in 1984 (excluding Lemieux):

Tom Barrasso (Goalie, 1988-2000): 458 games, 226 wins, 153 losses, 53 ties, 3.27 GAA

Paul Coffey (Defense, 1987-92): 331 games, 108 goals, 332 assists, 440 points

Larry Murphy (Defense, 1990-95): 326 games, 78 goals, 223 assists, 301 points

Jaromir Jagr (Right wing, 1990-2001): 806 games, 439 goals, 640 assists, 1,079 points

Ron Francis (Center, 1991-98): 533 games, 164 goals, 449 assists, 613 points

Sidney Crosby (Center, 2005-current): 368 games, 180 goals, 317 assists, 497 points

Source: Pittsburgh Penguins media guide

Arrive early to send out the Igloo

Gates will open at 6 p.m. Thursday for the final regular-season NHL game at Mellon Arena between the Penguins and New York Islanders.

The Penguins are requesting that fans be seated by 7:20 p.m., because a special pre-game ceremony will begin soon after. The ceremony will involve more than 50 former Penguins — players, coaches and general managers — who will be on hand to send off the NHL's oldest facility.

Trib Total Media readers are encouraged to send their Mellon Memories via e-mail to .

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