Kovacevic: If giant steel walls could talk ...
If giant steel walls could talk, one might have overheard the following conversation Saturday, just across the street from Consol Energy Center ...
Civic Arena: Hey.
Me: Um ... hey ... talking building• Wow, now I know I need another coffee.
Arena: Oh, get over it. I'm still here, still real. What brings you to this side of Centre?
Me: This is where the media parks for games. Just watched the Penguins beat Winnipeg and Evgeni Malkin had five points and ... am I still talking to a building?
Arena: Yep. The Jets are back, huh• Man, nobody tells me anything anymore. Guess that's how it is now. A lot of folks can't even look at me anymore, you know?
Me: Well, I ...
Arena: Don't lie. I'm sure you don't, either. But some do. Most snap pictures and tweet or text them to friends. I like that.
Me: Does it bother you, the ... you know?
Arena: No, I accept it. I'd lost Vince Lascheid and John Barbero, so I already lost my heart and soul. I knew this couldn't last forever. If I didn't take the hint when Howard Baldwin stuffed my innards with F-levels, I sure took it a couple years ago when my roof leaked onto the ice and fans chanted, "New a-re-na!"
Me: Did that hurt?
Arena: Did you see my first roof leaf crash down last month• That hurt.
Me. I'll bet. Noticed they're having trouble getting that second one down, though.
Arena: Hey, a hockey arena's going to fight back, eh• You have any idea how tough these leaves are• Guess the names I've given to the last seven.
Me: Do tell.
Arena: That's Bob "Battleship" Kelly over there. Rick Tocchet. Kevin Stevens. Ulf Samuelsson. Brooks Orpik. Gary Roberts. And the anchor leaf is Mario Lemieux.
Arena: Dude, there's tough, and then there's beating cancer and scoring on the Flyers in the same day.
Me: Nice. That was in Philly. Mind if I ask your favorite hockey moment here?
Arena: If I rate it by roof-shaking• The youngsters might say Jordan Staal's shorty in the final against the Red Wings. Most would think it was Mario's goal in Game 1 of the '92 final. Ask me, and it was Ron Francis' OT goal against the Rangers in those same playoffs. Remember Adam Graves cracking Mario's wrist• Remember how angry everyone was• I was mad, too.
Me: So wait, don't tell me you ...
Arena: Made the ice quake a little when Ronnie smoked that center-ice slapper past Mike Richter earlier in the game• Nope, wasn't me.
Me: Any regrets?
Arena: Other than my team celebrating all three of its Stanley Cups in other cities• Well, in all candor, I'm not wild about this demolition taking so long. They tell me it'll be done in May, but there's no hard date. I wouldn't have minded ... you know, having a day where everyone could say goodbye. Like they did for that other stadium.
Me: Three Rivers.
Arena: Seriously, no one even liked that place, and 100,000 people came out on a Sunday morning to watch it get blown up in what, a few seconds• I'll bet you were one of them.
Me: I was out of town. But I watched it live on CNN.
Arena: CNN• Wow. With my luck, mine would be on Root Sports, and they'd miss it during a commercial.
Me: The other regret?
Arena: Honestly, can't they preserve some part of me• They saved that brick wall from Forbes Field, that cement gate marker at Three Rivers ...
Me: I've heard from the Penguins that something will be saved. They're not sure what yet.
Arena: Gene Ubriaco's tunnel?
Me: Very funny. You know, Mike Lange once had a novel idea, to build a replica of your roof on top of Consol. Would have been a tremendous tribute.
Arena: Well, I'll be cowkicked. Guess I'll have to settle for a second life through Christmas ornaments. Please tell me you didn't buy one of those.
Me: Uh ...
Arena: Oh, relax. I'm just happy they'll have Mario's statue facing my way. That's how it should be. I'm 50 years old, and I've had a full life if you don't count Spirit games, indoor lacrosse or the Dick Tarnstrom era. And Mario was the best part of all of it.
Me: Look, I don't like to conjure up a conversation and run, but ...
Arena: Yeah, I know. Time moves on. Hey, small favor?
Arena: Think of your old Igloo anytime it snows and the Pens play. That's how I want you to remember me. There's always going to be only one team in pro sports named after a building, and that'll always be me. I'll take that over some cement gate marker.