Every Tuesday Gretz is going to jump in the Penguins time machine and share a story or piece of Penguins memorabilia that he has collected over the years. Today: We look at Ice Time, a staple of every Pittsburgh Penguins game.
If you have ever been to a Pittsburgh Penguins game you know all about Ice Time.
It’s the free game program that gets handed to you as soon as you walk through the gate, and it always features a different Penguins player or theme on the cover.
They have done Star Wars themes, they once had an unfortunate misspelling with Sidney Crosby’s name, and they even had one that was actually designed by Zach Aston-Reese.
I can’t explain why, but as a kid I always LOVED getting these. It was like getting a free souvenir on top of whatever giveaway that might have been given out that night. For me, it was as synonmous with the Civic Arena as John Barbaro’s voice, Vince Lascheid’s organ, Jeff Jimerson’s anthem, or that distinct smell you got a whiff of as soon as you walked into the concourse (I still do not know what that smell was, but if you ever went to the Civic Arena — it is probably still in your nose).
I would always get to my seat and spend the 20 minutes before puck drop looking through it. In the age before smartphones it was an easy way for a kid to find out about the night’s opponent, see who the league’s leading scorers were, or just anything else about the league in general.
I was fortunate enough to be in the building on March 8, 2000 when the Penguins played the Montreal Canadiens.
It just so happened to be the night of the greatest Ice Time cover of all time.
That is Ian Moran, looking like he was on his way to a tryout to be the bad boy in the newest boy band of the era.
Twenty years later I am still fascinated by this cover. This picture. Even, to a point, Ian Moran himself. He carved out a nice career for himself (playing almost 500 games!) and played both forward and defense at various times. He was also one of the players that ended up on that random autographed jersey that I had, so maybe that was a part of it, too.
He is also a classic “remember that guy” sorta player, which made his inclusion on the cover for this game all the more fitting because it was a classic “remember some guys” lineup that night.
Like most games I attended as a kid, I remember this game vividly. I remember skipping a baseball tryout that night to go (Shockingly, I was cut from the team). I remember the Penguins being without Jaromir Jagr due to an injury and the lineup being mostly grim. I remember the Canadiens absolutely shutting shit down and easily winning.
This was the during that late 90s-early 2000s time frame when the Penguins were still a regular playoff team as long as they had Jagr, but were mostly unable to do anything because they didn’t have much beyond Jagr, Marty Straka, and Alex Kovalev.
Just look at the roster that was trotted out on the ice that night.
- Do you remember Pat Falloon’s time with the Penguins? Because he played 15 minutes that night.
- This was during Rob Brown’s second stint with the team (one that was far more successful than I remember it being at the time).
- The defense that night was made up of Moran, Darius Kaspairaitis, Hans Jonsson, Michal Rozsival, John Slaney (all of three minutes of ice-time!), Jiri Slegr, and Brad Werenka.
- Straka played a game-high 24 minutes in Jagr’s absence, and German Titov was right behind him at 23:38 for the game.
- The goalies at this time were Jean-Sebastian Aubin (starter) and the remains of Tom Barrasso’s career. This game was exactly one week before Barrasso was traded to Ottawa for Janne Laukkanen and Ron Tugnutt.
- Do not remember a thing about Martin Sonnenberg, but he apparently played 10 minutes for the Penguins in this game.
This game happened in the middle of a particularly rough stretch for the Penguins. They were in the middle of a 3-5-4 stretch, were dangerously close to falling out of a playoff position at that time, and after losing 3-0 in this game would go on to get embarrassed the very next night in Ottawa by a 7-0 margin.
Jagr eventually returned, Craig Patrick made a couple of trades before the trade deadline (including the aforementioned move for Laukkanen and Tugnutt), and the Penguins ended up doing what they did every other year in that area: Made the playoffs, beat the Washington Capitals, then lost to a better team in the second round. In this case, it was the Philadelphia Flyers and the Andy Delmore-Brian Boucher-Keith Primeau playoff series.
That Capitals series was also the year of the infamous scheduling conflict at the Civic Arena, forcing the opening round series against Washington to have an unusual set-up: Game 1 in Washington, Games 2 and 3 in Pittsburgh. Ron Wilson was so furious about not getting the first two games at home that he blurted out “we’ll give them all seven games in Pittsburgh and we’ll beat them anyway.”
The Penguins won Game 1 in Washington 7-0, then won the series in five games.
A completely bizarre era of Penguins hockey.