A Review of Tales from the Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room

Tales from the Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room: A Collection of the Greatest Penguins Stories Ever ToldTales from the Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room: A Collection of the Greatest Penguins Stories Ever Told by Joe Starkey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a longtime Pittsburgh Penguins fan, this was an awesome book to read! And I think it would be interesting for any hockey fan. However, if you’re not into hockey, this might not be the book for you.

The book starts out with the founding of the Penguins in 1967. Among the names considered for the team were the Shamrocks, Hornets, and Eskimos. However, the wife of one of the original investors chose “Penguins” and that’s what they became.

The first chapter is on the early years, namely 1967-1974. The first game was a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Their first rivalry was with the St. Louis Blues, although it soon became heated with the Philadelphia Flyers, a rivalry that continues to this day. The original hockey arena was called The Igloo, and I remember going there as a kid in the ’70s. It was a fun place to watch hockey.

The next chapter covers 1975-1983. The 1983-84 team was the worst ever, getting only 38 points on the season while using 48 players. The team declared bankruptcy in 1975. The book doesn’t say how they got out of it though. It describes a game that was played the night before Pittsburgh’s fourth Super Bowl win. It was against Edmonton and it erupted into a bench-clearing brawl. Eight players were ejected and the Pens were given 144 penalty minutes. That’s pretty cool. The 1970s Penguins may not have been all that good, but they could fight. The chapter also goes on to mention how the team’s colors were changed from sky blue to Pittsburgh black and gold in 1980, much to Boston’s displeasure. The chapter closes with a description of how the team might have flopped to get the worst record so they could draft superstar Mario Lemieux in 1984.

Mario was an instant hit and he scored a goal in his first game, on his first shift, with his first shot against Boston. And on to an incredible career. The chapter mentions how the Pens had gone 0-39-3 — 15 YEARS — without a win in Philly, only to finally get one in 1989. That’s crazy! Around the same time, Pittsburgh acquired awesome goaltender Tom Barrasso, who would go on to help the team win two Stanley Cups. I still remember him in goal. He was great. Meanwhile, going into 1990, Mario had scored a point or more in 46 straight games before a bad back injury forced him out of the lineup. That was disappointing. Another great Penguin was also acquired in the late ’80s — defenseman Paul Coffey. He would finish his career as one of the great scorers in the league. The pieces finally came together in 1990 when Pittsburgh drafted Jaromir Jagr, who would go on to also become on of the greatest scorers in league history. He and Lemieux made a formidable combination.

The next chapter covers the great Stanley Cup wins in 1991 and 1992 and several great subsequent seasons. The 1992-93 Pens had four 100 point scorers, which is amazing. This year, only Pen Sidney Crosby scored 100 points in the league. Four on one team in the same year. Amazing. Finally, in 1997, Mario retired due to terrible back problems and Hodgkins Disease. The 66 jersey was immediately retired. He was also elected to the Hall of Fame.

The following chapter covers 1997-2004, which were pretty lean years for the Pens. In fact, they went into bankruptcy once again and were only saved when Mario stepped in to buy the team. The next chapter is all about Sidney Crosby’s 2005 rookie year as the new savior of the franchise. He lived with Lemieux his rookie year. He scored his first goal in his first home game against Boston.

After the chapter on Crosby comes a chapter called “The Rising,” covering 2006-2008, when the Pens were putting the pieces together for another Stanley Cup run. They got Evgeni Malkin from Russia and he sure could score. Like Lemieux and Jagr before them, Crosby and Malkin would go on to become the most feared scoring pair in the NHL. Of course, Pittsburgh played Detroit for the Stanley Cup in 2008, losing in six games. However, the next year, both teams went at it again, with Pittsburgh winning its third Stanley Cup in seven games. I remember that series well. Nail biting, to say the least.

The final chapter covers 2010-2013, and it’s as good as the other chapters. Now it’s 2014 and the Pens are in the playoffs again and I really hope this year we can bring home a fourth Stanley Cup. Crosby and Malkin are no longer the kids they were in the previous ones and this team can’t last forever. It’s time for another.

This was a fun and quick book to read. My only complaint is the contents of the chapters aren’t linear, so that you get something that happened one year followed by something that happened four years before. It can be confusing at times. Still, excellent book and I strongly recommend it.

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