Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are like the NHL version of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. While Crosby and his model girlfriend Kathy Leutner are worth peanuts compared to Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen, he's still a professional athlete that many people aspire to be.
Crosby continues to climb the NHL's list of all-time best players, but let's not forget that there are other notable players on the Penguins' roster like Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel. With a bunch of superstars on a successful squad, the Pens are undoubtedly a tremendous team with lots of potential. They didn't win five Stanley Cups (1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, 2017) out of pure luck. Well, we're pretty sure a dash of luck was involved, but their roster is pretty much stacked with stellar forward lines and defense pairs.
For any hockey fan, the Pens are definitely somewhere on the top of the list when the mood to learn more about NHL history strikes. After all, this particular expansion team is either your most loved or most hated team in the league, even if you're a credentialed media member who covers hockey on a regular basis.
There are a lot of things to learn about the Pens, who were established in 1967 during the league's original expansion from six to 12 teams, but there are also some things that the league wishes you would forget about...or not learn about altogether.
Here are 15 things you may not have known about the Pittsburgh Penguins.
15 Evgeni Malkin Owns A Prison-Themed Restaurant In Russia
Evgeni Malkin was born and raised in Magnitogorsk, Russia, where he also owns a prison-themed restaurant. Yes, you heard that right, a prison-themed restaurant called VIP Zone. So it's safe to assume that Malkin prefers a taste of prison...Get it?
Despite the prison theme, the restaurant is reportedly "posh" and "cozy" in a common area with barred windows and ceilings, lamps designed as police flashlights, barbed wire and written excerpts from the Russian Penal Code.
Malkin told Komsomolskaya Pravda Daily: "I wanted to open a restaurant that would be something absolutely new, like nothing before it."
Malkin added: "Designers suggested making it look like a maximum security prison. I now plan to establish a network in other cities."
Malkin's next step should be to open up a VIP Zone in Pittsburgh, so Pens fans can also get a taste of prison.
14 Sidney Crosby Lived With Mario Lemieux And His Family For Four Years
Mario Lemieux has essentially been the toast of Pittsburgh for the past 35 years. He has built a life and family there, and his family has an extended family member. And no, it's not a newborn baby or long lost relative. It's actually Pens captain Sidney Crosby, who has lived with the Lemieux family for four years.
Crosby and Lemieux aren't blood relatives, but Super Mario treats Sid The Kid as if he was one of his own kids. Lemieux's kids (Lauren, Stephanie, Austin, Alexa) love him too.
Lemieux told NHL.com: "He's great to be around. He's the same kid he was when he came to live with us four years ago - he's a joy to be around...My kids love him and he's a part of our family, really, he's been with us so long. It's great to have him around."
Crosby eventually went out on his own, but having Crosby around ensured Lemieux that his young star stayed out of trouble and learned how to be a professional. Mission accomplished!
13 Pens' Andy Brown Was The Last Goalie To Wear A Mask
Goalie Andy "Fearless" Brown only played with the Pens for two seasons (1972-73, 1973-74), racking up tons of penalty minutes and later setting a NHL record for penalty minutes in a season by a goaltender. He was also known for being the last goalie to play without a mask in the NHL.
So if you think that the Penguins are weak, think again. The NHL mandated goalie masks in 1959. Not because the Pens are weak, but because player safety is one of the biggest priorities in hockey. You might still think the league needs to man up, but it's a good thing they drew attention to themselves by making every Pens goalie after Brown wear a mask, and you can thank them later.
12 Pens' Organization Was Nearly Forced Into Bankruptcy
The Pens weren't always a team that had everything right from the start. In 1975, the Pens' creditors demanded payment of back debts, which nearly forced the team into bankruptcy. The doors to the Pens' offices were padlocked, and it looked like the team was going to fold or relocate.
Around the same time, rumors began to surface that the Pens and California Golden Seals were expected to be relocated to Seattle and Denver, respectively. Those two cities were reported to be the sites of another NHL expansion for the 1976–77 season.
Though, two people intervened to save the hapless Pens and they were former Minnesota North Stars head coach Wren Blair and shopping mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. It wouldn't be the first time the Penguins faced relocation rumors.
11 The 1980s Were A Tough Decade Even With Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux is currently the owner of the Pens, but he was also one heck of a Penguin from 1984 to 2006. He remained loyal to only one team, the Pens, during his 17 seasons in the NHL. He's deemed as one of the best players of all-time. Hence, his nicknames "Super Mario" and "The Magnificent One."
Yes, Lemieux led the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992; but the 1980s were a tough decade even though he was drafted by the Pens, who were dealing with financial turmoil at the time.
In the 1988-98 season, Lemieux led the league with 114 assists (tied with Wayne Gretzky) and 85 goals. He was the only player to approach Gretzky's 200-plus point seasons. Despite his personal success, the Pens either missed the playoffs or received early exits. He seemingly had way too much weight to carry for the Pens.
10 The Team Once Had An Actual Penguin As Their Mascot
At one point in time, the Pens had a live penguin as their mascot. He was appropriately nicknamed Pete. He was an Ecuadorian-born penguin on loan from the Pittsburgh Aquazoo. He made his first appearance in front of 9,198 fans at the Civic Arena on February 21, 1968.
Pete was a ninth birthday present to Doug McGregor (son of Penguins president Jack McGregor). He went on to make another appearance in the 1967-68 season and then made regular appearances with the Pens in the 1968-69 season. He made his final appearance in a game against the New York Rangers on November 16, 1968. He died from pneumonia at the Highland Park Zoo on November 23, 1968.
Today's Pens and hockey fans in general would love Pete from a distance.
9 The Pens' Nickname Was Inspired By The Igloo
Penguins don't live in igloos. The people who made igloos were the Inuit people who lived in the far north of North America and Greenland. So who came up with the Pens' nickname in the first place?
We have an answer for you. When the Pens were established, a contest was held and 700 of the 26,000 fan-submitted entries wrote "Penguins" for the team's nickname. Mark Peters had the winning entry, which was inspired by the team's former arena, the Pittsburgh Civic Arena a.k.a. the Igloo. Also, a penguin in front of a triangle became the team's logo because it symbolized the Golden Triangle of downtown Pittsburgh. Plus, doesn't the name "Pittsburgh Penguins" just have a nice ring to it?
8 No. 21 Was First Jersey Number Retired To Honor Rookie
Unless if you've been following hockey since the late 1960s or early 1970s, you've probably never heard of Michel Briere. Briere was a promising rookie who was selected by the Pens with the 26th overall pick in the third round of the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft. According to the Pens general manager Jack Riley, Briere asked for a bigger bonus and said that he was going to be in Pittsburgh for 20 years.
Briere never stayed in Pittsburgh for the 20 years he had in mind. He didn't get traded or booted though. He was involved in a car crash with two friends in Malartic, Quebec, in 1970. He suffered severe head trauma and died a year later after multiple brain surgeries that led to an 11 month coma. As a result, the Pens retired their first ever jersey, No. 21, in honor of the promising rookie.
7 Pens Switched Colors To Black And Gold To Be Like Other Pittsburgh Teams
All Pittsburgh teams wear black and gold for one reason: They're the colors of Pittsburgh's flag, which was based on the coat 18th century prime minister William Pitt, who the city was named after. Pittsburgh is unique enough for all three of its teams (Steelers, Pirates, Penguins) went with the same color scheme. Also, the colors were so popular that rapper and Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa dropped a song called "Black and Yellow" in 2010.
But the Pens players weren't always dressed in black and gold. Their original uniforms were actually blue and white. They didn't switch over to the black and gold until 1980. We've seen the team bring back the originals on occasion, for events such as the Winter Classic, but everyone can agree black and yellow represents the team perfectly.
6 Scotty Bowman Took Over As Coach Because Pens Lost Bob Johnson To Cancer
A lot of people assume Scotty Bowman coached the Penguins to their first two Stanley Cups, but many forget he actually didn't take over until after the Pens captured their first championship. Pens coach Bob Johnson coached the Pens to their first Stanley Cup in 1991. The Pens eliminated the Minnesota North Stars in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that year. After the thrilling victory, the Pens met with President George H.W. Bush and became the first NHL team to visit the White House.
Unfortunately, Johnson passed away the following year at the age of 60 due to brain cancer. Scotty Bowman took over as the Pens' coach, and his team swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. From there, the Pens continued to improve to become one of the most successful franchises in league history.
5 The Team Celebrated Its Stanley Cup Win(s) In Mario Lemieux's Pool
Mario Lemieux is a hero to all of Pittsburgh. Not only did he lead the Penguins to their first two Stanley Cups and kept the Penguins a model franchise throughout his career, but he stepped in when the team was in dire financial straits. He helped the team by coming in as a part-owner and was eventually able to help secure a new arena deal for the Pens, who badly needed to get out of the old Melon Arena. So when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the third time this past summer with Lemieux as an owner, Super Mario threw a pool party at his house and invited the team to hang out. Obviously, things got very rowdy in there and thankfully for the Pens, not too many scandalous photos surfaced from the party. Could you imagine if Jerry Jones threw a pool party at his house if the Cowboys won a Super Bowl?
4 Phil Kessel Comes From An Athletic Family
Phil Kessel is one of the best active American-born NHL players, but he's not the only athlete in his family.
His father, Phil Kessel Sr., was a quarterback at Northern Michigan University and was drafted by the Washington Redskins, where he spent his first year in the NFL on the injured reserve list before being released by the Redskins. His brother, Blake Kessel, is a defenseman who was drafted by the New York Islanders with the 166th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Draft and currently plays for the HC Kosice of the Tipsport Liga. His sister, Amanda Kessel, plays hockey for the National Women's Hockey League and the United States National Team. His cousin, David Moss, plays hockey for EHC Biel of the National League.
So there you have it. A family full of athletes at the collegiate and professional levels.
3 Carl Hagelin Has A Famous Great Grandfather
Carl Hagelin is a Swede, but not just any Swede. He's a talented Swede who played two seasons for the Sodertalje SK of the J20 SuperElit, where he scored 44 goals and 51 assists, ranking fifth all-time in points and goals scored for Sodertalje. He went on to play collegiate hockey for the University of Michigan before being drafted by the New York Rangers with the 168th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Draft. He struggled with the Rangers and was traded to the Pens, where he was a key contributor in their 2016 and 2017 postseasons.
However, he isn't the only star in his family. His grandfather, Boris Hagelin, was a Swedish businessman who invented encryption machines and became the only cypher machine creator to become a millionaire.
2 Carl Hagelin's Older Brother Bobbie Also Played Hockey
Bobbie and Carl Hagelin literally came into the world like brother and brother. Sure, they were born in different years as Bobbie was born in 1984 and Carl was born in 1988, but they both grew up playing hockey in their native Sweden.
Bobbie is a retired hockey player now, but he has played for Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League and the Rodovre Mighty Bank of the AL Bank Ligaen. Bobbie played for Sodertalje SK and scored two goals and one assist in 45 games from 2001 to 2004. Bobbie significantly improved with the Rodovre Mighty Bank as he tallied 27 goals and 27 assists in 73 games from 2007 to 2009.
While Bobbie remains in his younger brother Carl's shadow, he still played the sport that they both loved and that's all that matters.
1 Matt Murray's Dog Has His Own Instagram Account
Matt Murray has been making headlines with his steady progress in the NHL. In 2016, he won his first Stanley Cup as the Pens' starting goalie. In 2017, he won his second Stanley Cup and became the first goalie in league history to win two Stanley Cups as a rookie. He also set a new record for most wins by a rookie goalie with 22.
Murray has been dating his longtime girlfriend Christina Sirignano for the past several years. The couple first met in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. They don't have any kids yet, but they're proud parents of a Newfoundland dog, who they named Beckham. He's very adorable, cuddly and furry. You can find him on Instagram @beckhamthenewf. So there you have it; Murray's a dog lover.
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