It didn't matter if you were a fan sitting in F-31 or a luxury suite. Or if you were a broadcaster attending morning skates or a goaltender who just gave up a bad goal to Jay Pandolfo. Every one of us had a routine at the Civic/Mellon Arena.
You had that little table near the Penguins' radio studios on the main concourse where you met friends.
You knew the best place to get nachos was near D-7. The best place to get chicken strips and fries was near C-27. Dunkin Donuts coffee was available behind the East Igloo Club. The cleanest restrooms were near... well...uh... there really wasn't any clean restroom in that place.
At morning skates, Mike Lange had his seat just near the ramp leading to the Penguins' dressing room. It wasn't specifically his seat. It wasn't marked with a "Mike Lange" sign on it. But it was his seat. And no one else sat in it. Period.
Marc-Andre Fleury had his little "skate-around" after giving up bad wristers over his blocker-side shoulder.
It was all routine. And whether you were there for a year, five years, 10 years or the 40-plus years the Penguins inhabited that place, it was a routine which took some sort of considerable amount of time to create.
In the short time we've been doing this blog, we had a routine of writing our game posts which was created much in part due to the physical nature of that structure. We knew which stairwells to use. Which ushers to say hello to. Which railing we could jump in order to get to the dank visiting locker room as quickly as possible.
And tomorrow, all of that gets reset, officially at least, when the Penguins host the Flyers for the first real hockey game of consequence in Consol Energy Center.
Everyone must find a new routine. You need to find a new place to meet your friends. You need to find where the best nachos are. You get to find a new restroom which is actually santitary. Mike Lange needs to find a new seat. Marc-Andre Fleury needs to pick a new corner to skate in. And we need to find some new stairwells to use.
Most importantly, you need to find where your seats are.
We've always felt your seats are a major part of your identity as a hockey fan. If you sat in E-15, you were E-15. Chances are you now sit in some foreign designation like 228. That could lead to a slight identity crisis. The alphabet isn't even involved!Yes, most of us have already been able to get a start on discovering these new routines. The Penguins have had three preseason games in the barn. We've run up and down these new, wider stairwells a few times.
Mike Lange has found his new seat.
Marc-Andre Fleury has found his new corner.
You've probably started the process of finding your new table and/or nachos. As well as the Tim Hortons coffee, the kielbasa sandwiches, sushi and R.C. Cola.
And you've probably found 228.
But it all happens for real tomorrow night. But it won't all happen in one game. It won't happen Saturday night when the Penguins host the Canadiens. And it won't happen in October during the Penguins' six home games. It won't happen in this season. Or even in the next.
It's kind of like evolution. It's going to take time. Lots of it.
It took us, collectively, 40 years to build up a routine at Civic/Mellon Arena. It's going to take us, collectively, probably just as long to build up one at Consol Energy Center.
(Photo: Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)