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Starkey: A different Penguins ceremony

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Penguins closed Mellon Arena's regular-season history Thursday night with a classy, well-conceived pre-game ceremony. Instead of introducing the 50-plus honorees one-by-one, the team cleverly divided many of them into groups.

The 1970's "Century Line" of Lowell MacDonald, Syl Apps and Jean Pronovost, for example, was introduced as a unit.

Hall of Fame defensemen Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy walked the red carpet together — from the Zamboni entrance to the Penguins' bench to center ice — as did goaltenders Frank Pietrangelo, Les Binkley and Ken Wregget and wingers-turned-broadcasters Phil Bourque and Bob Errey.

Mario Lemieux and ex-GM Craig Patrick were among those deservedly given individual intros, Lemieux bringing down the house as the last man out. "Scary" Gary Roberts was the biggest surprise. He took time out of a family vacation at the Masters and was rewarded with a rousing ovation.

Great stuff, all of it.

But wouldn't it have been fun to balance all the positive vibes with a ceremony honoring some of the wackier and less-pleasant aspects of Penguins history?

Those things, after all, have given us at least as much to talk about as the star players and big wins.

At the anti-ceremony ...

» Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk — the three stiffs acquired from the Capitals for Jaromir Jagr — stroll arm-in-arm to center ice.

» Ziggy Palffy takes three steps onto the red carpet before abruptly turning around and bolting home to Slovakia.

» Former team owners Howard Baldwin and Roger Marino wave to the crowd — and Baldwin gets so caught up in the excitement that he grabs a microphone and declares: "The new arena's on me!" He later explains that he will buy the Consol Energy Center on a deferred-payment plan beginning in 2075.

» Ex-coach Michel Therrien accidentally sets the red carpet on fire with a lit cigarette butt.

» Therrien grabs the microphone from Baldwin and rips the current team's defense, saying: "I'm really starting to believe their goal is to be the worst defensive squad in the league. And they're doing such a great job at being the worst."

» Almost-owners Sam Fingold and Jim Balsillie barely make it out of the Zamboni entrance when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tells Balsillie to go home.

» Another almost-owner, William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, delivers a video tribute from his prison cell. (Boots, who nearly bought the Penguins pre-Sidney Crosby, is facing a prison sentence for securities fraud.)

» Ramzi Abid, Rico Fata and Guillaume Lefebvre are introducted as "The ill-fated 'X-Generation!' "

» The Ferraro twins take a turn around the ice. Nobody has heard of them.

» Tom Barrasso berates media members and former backup Jean Sebastien Aubin before strapping on the pads one last time and acknowledging the crowd from the goal crease.

» Penguins assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, a long-time NHL player, walks to center ice, and, for old-time's sake, rips a 60-foot slap shot past Barrasso.

» Alexander Daigle, Dick Tarnstrom, Dan Focht, Richard Lintner, Jonathan Sim, Shane Endicott and Lasse Pirjeta team up to represent all "the guys who helped bring Fleury, Crosby, Malkin and Staal to Pittsburgh!"

» Surprise guest Jagr draws a raucous ovation but grows impatient with the length of the ceremony, turns to Pirjeta and says: "I'm dying alive; you?"

» Billy Tibbetts attempts to enter the arena but cannot elude security.

» Chris Wells, Robert Dome, Konstantin Koltsov, Stefan Bergkvist, Milan Kraft and Craig Hillier join forces and are introduced as "The incredible 1990's first-round draft busts!"

» Ex-coach Kevin Constantine stops in the middle of his red-carpet walk and reflexively stations five ex-players in the formation of a neutral-zone trap.

» Judge Bernard J. Markovitz joins several of the team's former creditors, from the 1975 and '98 bankruptcies, and they all pay 5 cents to the dollar for their tickets.

» Marian Hossa joins the anti-ceremony at the last minute, grabs the microphone from Therrien and explains his appearance as such: "The Penguins give me a little better of a chance to win the Cup."




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