Penguins founder Block dies at 82
If it hadn't been for Peter Block, Pittsburgh might not have a NHL team. And if Mr. Block had his way, that team might never have been called the Penguins.
Mr. Block died of cancer Sunday at age 82 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was the team's vice president and chief operating officer during its inaugural season in 1967-68.
“A lot of current Penguins fans might not know his name, but Peter Block was a huge part of the history of the team and hockey in Pittsburgh,” Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said. “He had the idea at the very start. We always honor him for that and express our condolences to his family and friends.”
Mr. Block was a classmate of former state Sen. Jack McGregor at Pitt law school in the early 1960s.
“We were in a car together driving to Harrisburg, and he started complaining to me that Pittsburgh was not as good a sports town as it was cracked up to be,” McGregor recalled Wednesday. “I said, ‘What do you mean?' ”
Mr. Block explained that a top-flight sports town should have a major league hockey team and that the NHL had named Pittsburgh as one of 10 or 15 candidates for its expansion from six to 12 cities. That prompted McGregor to ask the prominent Pittsburgh families who helped back his successful run for the state Senate to invest in an NHL team as well.
They did. McGregor and Mr. Block became partners, although they didn't agree on what the team's nickname should be.
“I remember he laughed at me for coming up with the name Penguins,” McGregor said. “My then-wife came up with the idea, and I remember Peter arguing against it. I believe he favored retaining the Hornets name (from Pittsburgh's former minor league hockey team).”