"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 Ray Shero.
Ray Shero is currently the Penguins' general manager. Hired as the successor to Hockey Hall of Famer Craig Patrick, May 25, 2006, the Penguins have had four winning records, an Atlantic Division title, two Eastern Conference titles and one Stanley Cup championship during Shero's four seasons running the franchise.
The son of Flyers' coaching great Fred Shero, Ray Shero was an 11th-round pick of the Kings in 1982. He never played in the NHL and spent seven years as a player agent before becoming a member of the Senators' front office in 1993. In 1998, he joined the expansion Predators as an assistant general manager and served in that capacity until he joined the Penguins. During his time in Nashville, Shero helped the Predators transform from fledging expansion club to a regular playoff contender.
Since Shero was hired by the Penguins, the franchise has a regular season record of 183-104-35. Only the Sharks (200), Red Wings (194) and Devils (190) have more wins over that span. Patrick (575) and Baz Bastien (193) are the only general managers in franchise history with more wins.
First memory of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I want to say probably about 1975, I came here. I was playing for the Philadelphia Little Flyers. I came to play against, I think it was the Hornets at the time, we played a weekend series against them. We actually went to a Flyer-Penguin game and sat in the second level. I still remember Pittsburgh scored the tying goal, I think it was Dave Burrows (right) who scored in the closing seconds to tie it, 4-4. I thought it was just a great thing. That was really the first time I’ve really seen Philadelphia play on the road. Mellon Arena, I thought I’ve never seen a building designed like that. It was a unique design to it. That was my first game in Mellon Arena. I don’t think I was looking back in 1975 when I was 13 years old and saying ‘Wow I can’t wait to manage this team.’"
"I love it. I’m going to miss Mellon Arena. It’s a great place to watch a game. Great memories obviously. Dan Bylsma and I were just talking about this (Thursday) night, someone was saying to us at the Dapper Dan (banquet), ‘It’s so great to get to Consol (Energy Center).’ It’s going to be great. It’s time. But we both said, ‘You don’t get it. Mellon Arena is really a great spot to play.’ The time is due to move but it will be a little bit painful when we do."
On his first game at Civic/Mellon Arena as Penguins general manager:
"My first year, the first game of the year was against Philadelphia. We won, 4-0. It was my first game as general manager and I was really nervous if we lose 10-0 or something. I’m saying to myself, ‘Do I have any idea of what I’m doing?’ Philadelphia was coming off a really good year. 'Flower' (Marc-Andre Fleury) played great. It think he had like 40 saves. Michel Ouellet scored the first goal to put us up 1-0. Jarkko Ruutu got a rebound goal. That was a memorable game for me. Just how nervous I was."
Favorite postseason memories of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I’d probably say Game 3 against Washington (in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals) because we’re one shot away from going down 3-0. Kris Letang scores in overtime. Probably Game 3 against Detroit (2009 Stanley Cup finals) being down 2-0. You go down 3-0, you’re pretty much toast. And Game 6 of course which was fantastic. They’re looking to close it out. They’ve got all their friends and family trying to celebrate the Stanley Cup on our ice. Our fans were unbelievable. We pulled that one out. Just as Mario (Lemieux) said. We’re going to win on Tuesday and win the Cup on Friday. He called it."
Least favorite part of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"The elevators never seem to work. Especially after the game, you’re trying to get down (to the locker room). You’re stuck and you end up walking down."
On the offices at Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I have (Craig Patrick’s) old office. Hopefully some of his magic rubs off. I like our office space. It was so weird when I first came here. I’ve never seen an office where the general manager is right outside the locker room basically. I’ve never seen that set up but now I’m used to it. I like that set up. But when it does rain, we seem to get floods. My first year in the summer time, I was working late and it was raining and our office was flooding. Pipes have burst. I was like. ‘Won’t last long here, we’re having floods already.’"
Favorite part of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I think the games. The game atmosphere is great. I think the lighting is fantastic. It’s a great vantage point to watch a game. I think it’s really a great fan atmosphere even though it’s an old building. Of course when the building empties and you walk around, yeah, it needs some upgrades. But the game experience I think is second to none at Mellon Arena."
On the benches at Civic/Mellon Arena:
"Our benches are across the way from the dressing rooms. That’s nuts. I still remember my first year, Nils Ekman (right), I’ve never see this before. I don’t know who we’re playing, he gets hit, some guy crushes him. He ends up hyper-extending his elbow. Well he’s in the corner right by our runway while the play’s going on and he’s in unbelievable pain. He’s knocking on the glass. I think our backup goalie at the time was Jocelyn Thibault. So Thibault is scrambling, he opens the door and Ekman goes flying down the runway to the trainers room. It’s now five on four for the other team. The next winger jumps on the ice to play. They call us for too many men on the ice. "
"Let’s say a guy goes back to the bench with an injury, and the trainer goes to him, ‘You alright?’ No, something’s wrong with him. Well, you don’t want your medical guy going across the ice during a stoppage with one of your players to show the other team on of your guys is potentially hurt. Sometimes your equipment guy goes with him (to throw off the opponent). One of the past few years, we’re playing someone in overtime. And right at the end of regulation, Malkin and Crosby have an issue with their skate. So they go right away with (equipment manager Dana Heinze) to get their skates sharpened. Well, overtime started and I’m like, ‘Where in the heck are these two guys?’ They’re not on the ice for overtime at all. And they’re standing there in the runway waiting for a stoppage of play. We happened to score in overtime, first shift, and those guys are banging on the glass. I’m not going to miss that either."
(Photos: First Shero-Jamie Sabau/Getty Images; Burrows-eBay; Second Shero-Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette; Ekman-Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)