Paul Steigerwald reflects on Penguins drafting Mario Lemieux
What did you do for “Happy Mario Day?”
Did you go down the YouTube Mario Lemieux highlight rabbit hole? Wear a No. 66 jersey to Sunday dinner? Maybe place a bouquet at the statue in front of PPG Paints Arena?
Those are all completely appropriate responses, by the way.
However you acknowledged the 35th anniversary on Sunday of the day the Penguins drafted Le Magnifique, good for you.
Mark Madden and I jumped back to June 9, 1984 during our “Madden Monday” podcast. But I wanted to give a little more time to the anniversary.
So Paul Steigerwald joined me for the podcast. The long-time Penguins broadcast host and play-by-play voice was on hand in Montreal the day Lemieux was selected by general manager Eddie Johnston. Steigy was part of the Penguins marketing department at the time. And he has dozens of memories of the day, the anticipation of the pick, and the immediate reaction of the city to it.
There was no lottery back in the ’80s. So Penguins fans knew who was being picked from the moment the club successfully tank … uh … unfortunately failed to win 18 of their final 21 games during the 1983-84 season.
Steigy has vivid recollections of the awkwardness when Lemieux refused to go down to the draft floor and put on the Penguins jersey. He also talks about how the pick was received within management and what the plan was to introduce Lemieux to Pittsburgh.
Because there was a strategy in place to prime the fanbase for how hockey was going to forever change in the city.