"Mellon Arena Memories" is a semi-regular feature that will appear in this forum from time to time through the end of the summer. We will attempt to interview several individuals connected to the Penguins about the arena which has served as the franchise's home facility since its inception. Today's subject is Les Binkley.
Les Binkley is a former goaltender with the Penguins. After toiling in the minor leagues for over a decade during the NHL's Original Six days in the 1950s and 1960s, expansion gave Binkley a crack at the NHL with the newly formed franchise in Pittsburgh. At the ripe age of 33, Binkley became the Penguins' primary starting goaltender during their first two seasons and platooned for three more campaigns.
During the Penguins' innagural season of 1967-68, Binkley posted a respectable 20-24-10 record with a 2.88 goals against average and a remarkable six shutouts. That mark remains as the second-highest single season total for shutouts in franchise history.
After Binkley's record regressed to 10-31-8 in 1968-69, Binkley began platooning the position with the likes of Al Smith and Jim Rutherford over the next three seasons. When the Penguins finally reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history in 1970, Binkley was the man who got the start and led the team to a 4-0 sweep of the Oakland Seals.
Following the 1971-72 season, he joined the Ottawa Nationals of the WHA. Binkley would eventually return to the Penguins as a scout and even got his name on the Stanley Cup with the 1992 championship team. In 2003, he was inducted into the franchise's hall of fame.
In 196 games with the Penguins, Binkley had a record of 58-94-34 with a 3.12 goals against average and 11 shutouts. His shutout total trails only Tom Barrasso (22) and Marc-Andre Fleury (16) on the franchise' career leader list.
On the Civic/Mellon Arena Arena when it was an AHL rink:
"It was a beautiful rink because most of the American League arenas were smaller attendance wise. It was always bright, you could see could. "
On the Penguins' first game against Montreal, a 2-1 loss, Oct. 11, 1967:
"It’s hard (playing Montreal). Stanley Cup champions as they had been for years and here we were as an expansion team playing them was pretty exciting. But the fans were as thrilled as the players were."
His personal highlight at Mellon/Civic Arena:
"I remember I was the first expansion goalie to beat an established team, Chicago."
(Note: The Penguins beat the Blackhawks, 4-2, Oct. 21, 1967.)
What was unique about Mellon/Civic Arena for goaltenders:
"We always used to complain to the carpenters and stuff that the puck never went around the same all the time. Whether they leave the door open a little crack. We’re standing there anticipating the puck to go right around. If it hits the crack and comes out right in front, what do we do?"
On the franchise's first playoff game, a 2-1 win against the Oakland Seals, April, 8, 1970:
"It was pretty exciting. Oakland had a decent team even though they were owned by Charlie Finley. They had those weird skates and stuff like that. It was a good stepping stone I thought."
The biggest difference in Mellon/Civic Arena since 1967:
"I guess they’ve added the other balconies on the top and that. You look up and see the extra seats and the private boxes. "