It’s 1979 all over again.
On Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins won a heart-stopping Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings to earn the prestigious Stanley Cup.
The route taken by the young Pens was somewhat reminiscent of the march the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers made to a championship. Both teams suffered through disappointing regular seasons. Both had to put together spectacular late season runs to even make the playoffs (In the Pens case, they won 18 of their final 26 games). They then had to battle the best their conference had to offer to even make the finals. And in the end, they both had to survive a close hard-fought finale.
This victory isn’t only special for the Pens and their legion of fans, a certain whistle-cranking ex-yinzer down in Carolina not included. This victory also marks the first time in professional sports history that one city has won the Lombardi Trophy and Lord Stanley’s Cup in the same year. This harkens back to 1979 when Pittsburgh double dipped with the Steelers and Pirates both winning titles in their respective sports.
I was five when that happened so my memories are hazy at best. I’ve heard the stories and remember the moniker but never thought I would see a double championship by my teams again. The odds against it are just too great. Then again, I live in Pittsburgh, the greatest sports city on earth, so maybe I should’ve had faith.
In my lifetime our teams have won 6 Super Bowls, 3 Stanley Cups, 2 World Series, had a #1 ranked NCAA Basketball team, and earned 1 National College Football Championship. Think about poor pitiful cities like Cleveland, who never win anything, or Philadelphia, whose four combined teams win one title approximately every 30 years. I’m almost tempted to feel sorry for them but then I realize they chose to live in those hellholes so they get what they deserve.
And speaking of deserving, does any team deserve this title more than the Pens? For Sidney Crosby it’s a culmination of a life’s dream. For Evgeni Malkin it’s a reward for a guy who literally had to run away from home in order to play in the NHL. And it’s sweet justice for Mario Lemieux, who saved hockey in this town not once, not twice, but THREE times. First by coming here as an 18-year-old superstar, then by buying the team when it was mired in bankruptcy, and just recently when backwater cities like Kansas City and Hamilton tried to poach our team. A heartfelt thanks goes out to them and the rest of the team that provided such excitement in the time between glorious Steeler seasons.
Let it be said, Pittsburgh is once again the City of Champions.