"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 through the end of the summer. We will attempt to interview several individuals inside and outside the Penguins about the arena which has served as the franchise's home facility since its inception. Today's subject is Colby Armstrong.
Armstrong (right, with Sidney Crosby) is a forward with the Atlanta Thrashers. He was was a first-round pick of the club in 2001. After finishing his junior career with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL and developing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, he finally broke into the NHL during the second half of 2005-06 season. As the Penguins stumbled to one of the worst records in the the NHL, Armstrong showed off his potential by compiling 40 points in 47 games while playing along side rookie star Sidney Crosby.
Armstrong would last parts of two more season with the Penguins. Despite appearing in 80 games, his production tailed off to 34 points but he was a regular contributor to the Penguins' first playoff team in six years. His production continued to tail off in 2007-08 as he could only muster 24 points in 54 games. At that season's trade deadline, he was part of one of the biggest trades in the franchise history as he was dealt to the Thrashers along with Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick in exchange for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
Since then, Armstrong has been a regular contributor to the Thrashers and hit the 20-goal mark in 2008-09. A popular player on and off the ice, Armstrong appeared in 181 games with the Penguins and recorded 98 points, the 79th highest total in franchise history.
First Memory of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I guess coming here for my first camp. We were down at Southpointe but I got to come down and check it out and snoop around which was pretty cool. That was the first time I’d ever been out to the Eastern states pretty much. To come here and see an older rink like that was pretty cool."
First game at Civic/Mellon Arena:
"We played against the New Jersey Devils. I got called up that night. So I flew up, (Maxime) Talbot and myself, from Wilkes-Barre and tried to sleep but couldn’t. I was so fired up and pretty nervous."
On a hit against Flyers forward Sami Kapanen and an ensuing fight with defenseman Nolan Baumgartner during the 2006-07 home opener:
"That was like the only fight I’ve ever won I think. I guess you could call that a win."
On a hit which knocked out Hurricanes forward Trevor Letowski later that month:
"I felt bad about that one."
On a hit against Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and being jumped by defenseman Saku Koivu in February of 2007:
"I got the better of (Souray) (chuckles). We got one of their better players kicked out and I crushed one of their other good players. Mellon was rocking."
On hit against Senators forward Patrick Eaves and an ensuing fight between Talbot and forward Dean McAmmond in the 2007 playoffs:
"That was actually in the playoffs which was really cool. It was my first time ever being in the playoffs. Faceoff in our own end, just saw him coming around the net and came down and crushed him I guess. Then Max had to fight a guy for me (laughter)."
Funniest moment at Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I think we were playing the (Maple Leafs) one time at home and the power went out twice during the game while the play was on. I was on the ice the one time and it was just like… complete blackness. It was kind of crazy. The power just went out. It was pretty crazy."
On the infamous visitors locker room at Civic/Mellon Arena:
"I do remember this locker room a lot. Sitting in here, five or six other guys during camp and (thinking) ‘Okay, I guess we’re getting cut.’ We’re all jammed into this little room while all the other guys were in the big (home) room."
Favorite part of Civic/Mellon Arena:
"It’s a good old rink. Just the arena has a good atmosphere. The crowd is spread out but it almost seems like they’re right on top of you. It’s like a different feel than any other rink in the league. I think that something you miss with the older rinks. That feel and that character in the arena."
On "Army's Pit," a fan club which hung a banner in the south F balcony. Ever have a banner like that in any level of hockey:
"No, no, no. Only here. I’ve only seen those signs up here. They got good hockey fans here for sure."
(Photo: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)