A dim night in Pittsburgh

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Luke Richardson laughed when asked about the last time he had been in a hockey game when the arena went dark.

"Piestany, about 20 years ago," the Maple Leafs defenceman said of he, Theo Fleury and the rest of Team Canada brawling with the Russians at the world junior championships in Czechoslovakia. "But that was on purpose (when a janitor cut the power in a vain attempt to stop the fights)."

Last night, Mellon Arena was dimmed twice for a total of 44 minutes, the first instance a complete blackout for a split second during a Toronto power play.

"I'm embarrassed to say I jumped 10 feet off the bench," winger Jeff O'Neill said. "I thought it was just me blacking out, so I was glad to see everyone was still there when the lights came back on."

Duquesne Light and Power had a problem with one of their main feeder lines going into the 40-year-old rink, the National Hockey League's oldest. It took about 18 minutes to fire up the house lights as the Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins skated around trying to stay loose.

SMALL FIRE

But when the backup system was switched on, it surged and caused another failure, as well as a small fire in a wiring panel.

That delay was 26 minutes when the re-surfacing of the ice for a 27-minute second-third period was factored in.

The 15,174 fans of both teams -- a huge Leaf contingent made the drive -- began to chant 'new arena, new arena', while the PA system played any pop song with the word dark or light in the title.

Power failures aren't unheard of in the NHL. The Oilers and Bruins had a tied Stanley Cup playoff game postponed in 1990 when the old Boston Garden went black. That meant a trip back to Edmonton for the Cup-clinching game for the Oilers.

The Leafs weren't sure what to think at first last night. A few heard a pop of the TV lights.

"It was scary," defenceman Aki Berg said. "You wonder what might have happened if the crowd panicked."

Ken Sawyer, the Pens' CEO, said there never was a safety issue or discussions about cancelling or postponing the game.

"But my first thought was that we need a new arena," Sawyer said of the ongoing saga with the city and state government.


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