On the course to becoming one of the premier franchises in the NHL, the Penguins have gone through many defining moments throughout the years, some good and others bad. Two of those franchise altering moments came 21 years apart, the first occurring in 1984 with the selection of eventual franchise savior Mario Lemieux and the second coming in 2005 when they won the right to draft Sidney Crosby.
Coming off a lockout that completely wiped out the 2004-05 season, the NHL held a special draft lottery for the 2005 NHL Draft where odds of getting the top pick were based on a weighted lottery. Due to the Penguins being one of the worst teams in the league the prior three seasons, the Penguins had a 6.4% chance of picking first overall along with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
As the teams were revealed one by one, hope grew that the Penguins were going to snag the top pick and the opportunity to draft a franchise altering talent in Sidney Crosby. Eventually it all came down to the Penguins and Anaheim Ducks as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prepared to make an announcement that changed the hockey landscape forever.
After years of futility on the ice and financial troubles off, the Penguins franchise was thrown a lifeline that eventually led to the most successful era of Penguins hockey in its history. Combined with the selection of Evgeni Malkin a year earlier and Marc-Andre Fleury a year before that, the Penguins were well on their way to building a dynasty.
Of course, not everything fell into place right away for the Penguins, even with the infusion of young, franchise changing talent. On the ice, they remained basement dwellers, finishing last in the Eastern Conference, allowing them to draft Jordan Staal second overall in the 2006 draft. Off the ice, financial issues and arena questions kept the team’s future in Pittsburgh very much in doubt, an issue that wasn’t resolved until late the next season.
Although the success and financial security were delayed, it all did come to fruition in the end for the Penguins franchise. Just four years after drafting Crosby, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup then added another two in 2016 and 2017. Those banners now hang inside PPG Paints Arena, a home possible because of Sidney Crosby.
During Pensburgh’s lifetime, the Penguins have never experienced anything like what transpired in the early 2000’s and we are all truly blessed for that. Had this site been around during that period, covering that moment in July of 2005, the moment that changed the Penguins franchise forever, would have been such a welcome occasion after the dark times that preceded that day and perhaps much of our success can be traced back to that one single ping pong ball.