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Fans upset with 'Lemieux's ruse'

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Friday, Aug. 15, 2008
 

Call it Lemieux's ruse.

Some Penguins fans today said they were unhappy that team owner Mario Lemieux duped them -- and public officials -- into thinking he was going to move the team from Pittsburgh if he didn't get a new arena.

"Fans really got behind the team when we felt there was a threat he could move the Pens," said Chris Fellers, 45, of Turtle Creek. "We all thought it didn't matter who got the casino license as long as the Penguins stayed in town."

During 18 months of negotiations, Lemieux threatened to move the team if city, county and state politicians didn't find a way to help pay for a new arena. Lemieux and fellow majority co-owner Ron Burkle traveled to Kansas City and Las Vegas in the weeks before an arena financing deal was reached in 2007.

During a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for a $290 million arena, Lemieux said leaving Pittsburgh "wasn't a possibility."

Kristin O'Neil, 28, of the South Side said Lemieux's threat was nothing but a way to get what he wanted.

"He knew how to strike at the heart of the fans and the city," she said. "I think he really duped the people of Pittsburgh, and he'll definitely get away with it because of who he is."

Lemieux admitted the visits were a negotiating tactic.

"He bluffed, and no one called him on it," said Caryn Lordes, 43, of Millvale. "In the end, he got what he wanted. It makes me lose some respect for Mario, because the way he said it was like he knew it was a little wrong."

But Steve Adler, 20, of Shadyside said he didn't care how the deal got done.

"The Pens are here, they're going to be here for a long time and they're gonna win a bunch of (Stanley) Cups in the new building," he said. "The fans got what we wanted, and Mario is still our hero."

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