The Pitts? Not yet for fans

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

PITTSBURGH — Chicken Little is nowhere to be found in Penguinville.

In fact, the day after Sid Crosby and his boys dropped Game 1 of their first-round playoff set to a Senators team that wasn’t even at its best, none of Pittsburgh’s citizens appear to be in the slightest bit of panic.

No one is screaming anything about the sky falling. Or the roof.

But the fact remains: Friday’s could be the last game ever played at the 49-year-old Mellon Arena.

If the Senators win it, then complete the series sweep with victories in Ottawa Sunday and Tuesday, the defending champs can start packing up and preparing for the move across Centre Ave. to the still-under-construction Consol Energy Center.

After a great number of Glory Days — and rumoured, back-to-back Bruce Springsteen concerts that are supposed to close one building and open the other — that’s where the Penguins will play their home games starting next season.

“Yup, it could be the last one,” says Harry, a rather sketchy-looking fellow who is shopping for Game 2 tickets, and avoiding my eye contact, as he stands a couple of hundred yards outside the arena’s front door Thursday morning.

Think it will be, Harry?

“Nah,” he says. “Everybody knows they’re gonna do something.”

But everybody thought the Penguins would win Game 1, too.

“The longer this series goes, the better it is financially,” says Harry.

You’re saying the Penguins lost on purpose Wednesday?

“Everybody knows,” says Harry, “that it’s all about politics and money.”

Whatever, old man.

“Everybody knows,” he says again, dragging out the ‘ows’ for emphasis.

“Sure, that’s a nice building,” Harry continues, nodding toward the Console Energy Center. “But it’s not HOME. That (pointing now to the Mellon) is home. They’re gonna tear it down and build apartments or condos? It’s crazy, man. No one is gonna wanna live down here. It’s home, yeah, but it’s home to the Penguins.

“You want Energy? Go over there, to where the Penguins go into the Mellon. That’s energy.”

It’s true, there always seem to be fans waiting, as close as security permits, to the player’s entrance. Always. I head over to see the “seekers” converge on Kris Letang, then Alexei Ponikarovsky, as they pull their vehicles out of the parking lot. The photo journalist I am sees the opportunity to snap some shots.

“Dude, I didn’t say I wanted to be on camera,” mumbled a big boy who was getting something signed by Letang as I took pics. I ignored him, as I did when he snarled at me after I took some more shots of him getting Ponikarovsky’s autograph.

“Dude,” he says again. “I DIDN’T SAY I WANTED TO BE ON CAMERA.”

“Dude,” I say back. “I KNOW.”

After that surge of energy, it was time to go inside for Senators practice. Joe, a rink attendant who has worked at the “The Igloo” for 36 years, will shed no tears when it’s time to relocate.

“No,” he says when asked if he’ll miss the old building. “It’s had its day. It’s done.”

Joe has never seen any of the rats that have been said to call Mellon Arena home (to other rats, of course. They don’t talk to people, right?). But, he says, it’s no tale. They’ve lived in the building’s bowels.

“Guys who worked here used to go under there in hip waders,” Joe says, nodding toward the area under the stands.

Because of the rats?

“No, the garbage.”

Oh look, it’s beer time!

I’ve never been to the Grant Street Tavern, but the marquee has an Irish feel to it, so it’s got to be good. And there’s a “Go Pens Go” sign in the front window. Must be some hockey fans inside.

“What did you think about the game last night?” I ask the barmaid, who looks likes like an Amy.

“Didn’t watch it,” she says.

“You’re not a Penguins fan?”

“I am,” she says, “but not a big one.”

Looks-like-an-Amy also says she doesn’t want to be interviewed by an out-of-town reporter, even a devilishly handsome one.

I think she just doesn’t want to reveal her true feelings. Like the rest of the Penguins fans, she has to be thinking the sky is falling.

Roof to follow.


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