"Mellon Arena Memories" is a feature will will appear on a daily basis in this forum until July 30, when the Penguins will officially leave the only facility they have known as their home arena since the franchise was formed in 1967. Today's subject is Tony Granato.
Tony Granato is currently an assistant coach with the Penguins. After a productive 13-year career which saw him hit the 30-goal mark four times while staring for the Rangers, Kings and Sharks, Granato retired as a player following the 2000-01 season. A year later, he was hired by the Avalanche as an assistant coach.
Granato guided that franchise as an assistant and head coach on and off until 2009. Prior to last season, the Penguins hired him as an assistant coach. His primary duties included organizing the forwards as well as the penalty kill which had the NHL's ninth-best success rate at 84.1 percent in 2009-10.
First Memory of Mellon/Civic Arena:
"When I started in the league, I was with the Rangers and that was a pretty big rivalry. We actually played them in the first round of the (1989) playoffs. They swept us. I think mostly you remember the team you’re playing against and the skill, but the other thing that stands out is the fans’ enthusiasm and support. And the uniqueness of the building."
On playing in Mellon Arena as a member of the Kings during the Mario Lemieux-Wayne Gretzky rivalry:
"We didn’t play that much with the cross over. It was unfortunate with the scheduling. We probably played when I was with (Los Angeles) probably only five times in the seven years I was there. It’s hard to establish that rivalry you think would be there and should have been. But anytime you played Pittsburgh and came into this building, you knew it would be exciting and a playoff-type atmosphere."
On the benches:
"It’s unique. This one has a different feel to it. Coaches having to walk across the ice. Players coming from one end and the other end being the bench side. That is unusual. You have to skate to the other team’s end to get off the ice to your locker room after warm ups. I’ve seen a lot of guys go to the wrong door after warm ups. Lots of times visiting players will walk into our locker room thinking it’s their room."
On the Penguins' locker room:
"In 1991, when I was on Team USA (in the Canada Cup), this was our home base. We were here for a couple months so we used this for a home room way back then. I always thought how cool it was and how unique it was. It’s got a good feel to it."
What he'll miss most about Mellon/Civic Arena:
"I’ll miss it all. I think it’s pretty special in a lot of ways. You can see the paintings on the wall, the pictures on the wall, the signs on the wall. It’s home. I’ve only been here a year, and it didn’t take long to feel like that."