We left the Pirates game and walked to Mellon Arena to watch the Penguins game and the only bad thing was they lost..but the experience was incredible!
Madness at Mellon Arena
By Bill Vidonic, Times Staff
Published: Saturday, May 24, 2008 11:00 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH — It didn’t matter a single bit that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings weren’t in Mellon Arena Saturday night.
The fans screamed so loud, their eardrums vibrated.
They clapped so hard their hands grew sore.
They hooted and hollered until their throats were raw.
And when the words “It starts now” appeared on scoreboard television screens, they thundered with a roar that probably could be heard all the way to Detroit.
It was a hockey night of historic proportions in Pittsburgh in the opening round of the Stanley Cup finals Saturday. Although Game 1 was being played in Detroit, the Pittsburgh Penguins opened up Mellon Arena so that fans could watch the game on the scoreboard that hangs at mid-ice.
Folks paid $5 a ticket, with all proceeds going to the Mario Lemieux Foundation.
It was a decision that no one regretted. Nearly 30 minutes after the puck was dropped, fans were still buying tickets and streaming inside. Club officials estimated at least 13,200 general admission tickets had been sold.
Some fans lined up before 2 p.m. to ensure they’d get the best seat in the house.
For Danielle White, 24, of Robinson Township, the night at the Igloo didn’t quite have the same ambiance that she gets during a regular game, when she has tickets in the front row, near one of the goals.
Saturday, she was in the front row once again, but she smiled as she said she’d make do without hearing the hiss of the skates on ice or the thuds of bodies hitting the boards.
“If we need the feeling, we’ll throw someone against the boards and make them shake,” said White, who attended the game with her brother, Chad White, 16, of Murraysville.
For Jim and Susan Weido of Beaver, it was a cheap family night, spending $30 for six tickets. If they had been trying to buy a ticket to actually see the Pens and Red Wings in the arena, that $30 wouldn’t even have come close to paying for a single seat.
“We would have paid $1,500 for a ticket,” Susan Weido said. “We’re diehard fans.”
They, along with their kids, Louis Didio, 19, Andrew Didio, 16, and Jordan Didio, 12, and Louis’ girlfriend, Rachael Curtis, 17, of Brighton Township, did the night up in true Pittsburgh fashion, eating at Primanti Bros. before heading to the arena.
Louis Didio described the atmosphere of the night as “electric.”
Even before fans got inside the arena around 7 p.m., they partied outside, the smell of beer filling the air as several people hoisted an aluminum foil copy of the Stanley Cup and started the chant, “We want the cup!”
Told they couldn’t bring the cup into the arena, they ended up batting the cup around over the heads of fans until it broke, with bystanders laughing and booing at the desecration.
With the team not in town, why head to the arena? Why not head to a favored bar or stay at home on the couch, to check out the game on a high-definition television?
Ashley Frioni, 24, of Hopewell Township, said simply, “That’s just the way it is.”
She was with Jessica Egan, 26, of Monaca, who was at her first Penguin game.
Neither of them cared that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren’t in the house, though.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Egan said. “I’m here to show my support for the team.”
Jesse Edwards, 16, of Hopewell, said, “It’s just the feeling of being around the fans. There’s nothing else like it.”
He added, “Pens fans are the best. They’re like no others.”
Tickets are also being sold for fans to watch Monday’s Game 2 inside Mellon Arena. The Pens will return to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Bill Vidonic can be reached online at email@example.com.