"Mellon Arena Memories" is a semi-regular feature that will appear in this forum from time to time during the remainder of the Penguins' final season at Mellon Arena. We will attempt to interview several individuals inside and outside of the Penguins about the arena which has served as the franchise's home facility since the its inception. Today's subject is Mark Eaton.
Mark Eaton is currently a defenseman for the Penguins. He owns the distinction of being the first free agent signing of current Penguins general manager Ray Shero. Shero, a former assistant general manger of the Nashville Predators, signed Eaton, also a former Predator, in the summer of 2006. After two injury-filled seasons, the defensive stalwart finally played a fairly complete season in 2008-09 and helped the Penguins win their third Stanley Cup title. During the team's playoff run, Eaton set career highs in postseason points with seven (four goals, three assists). They were also the first posteason points of his career.
In addition to the Penguins and Predators, Eaton has also played for the Flyers during his NHL career. Born in Wilmington, Del., he is the only native of "The First State" to have ever played in the NHL.
First memory of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"I grew up a Penguins fan. I had some family that lived in Pittsburgh. I was born in the Philly area but my family being from Pittsburgh, they converted me at a young age. I remember going to a playoff game here. It was, at that time, (Mario) Lemieux’s last home game in the playoffs when he scored against Philly."
First memory of Mellon/Civic Arena as a visiting player:
"The (visiting) locker rooms were a dump."
What was it like playing at Mellon/Civic Arena as a player for the first time:
"The first time I was able come in here as part of a visiting team and play an NHL game at Mellon Arena was pretty cool. It was pretty special."
Favorite memory of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"Opening night this year was pretty cool. Raising the banner and all that. That’s something I’ll never forget. There’s a lot of good memories here but that’s one that jumps out."
Worst Memory of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"(Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals) was tough to watch. I wasn’t out there but you feel the pain of the guys. It was definitely a tough thing to go through. Me personally, I had a pretty bad injury here that sidelined me for half of a season. That’s probably my worst memory."
Worst feature of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"Definitely won’t miss the boards behind our net. The net that we defend twice. There’s really no bounce. Lot of times you can make a play with a bounce off the boards. But as soon as it hits the boards it dies. It will go up on end."
Best Feature of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"The old arenas, they create that atmosphere. Kind of a feeling of fans being right on top of you. It’s a good arena in that sense."
(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)