10 Most Interesting Facts About the Pittsburgh Penguins

*This was most recently updated in Aug. 2022

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most successful franchises in the modern era of the NHL, winning five Stanley Cups since their first in 1990-91 while showing off some of the greatest players to ever play the game. From Mario Lemieux to Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have seen some interesting times, to say the least.

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Here are some compelling facts about the Penguins.

10. Crosby Is the Youngest Captain in NHL History to Win Cup

As the Penguins ousted the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, Crosby became the youngest captain to lift the Cup in NHL history at 21 years, 10 months. He became the youngest captain since Wayne Gretzky led the Edmonton Oilers to a Cup victory in 1984 at 23 years, 3 months.

10 Most Interesting Facts About the Pittsburgh Penguins

Before the formation of the NHL, Mike Grant of the Montreal Victorias was the youngest captain to lift the Stanley Cup in 1895 at 21 years, 3 months.

9. Penguins Recently Held Longest Playoff Appearance Streak

It is no surprise that the Penguins have been one of the most successful franchises in modern history. Pittsburgh recently held the longest active streak for playoff appearances with 17, making the postseason tournament every year from 2005-06 until 2022-23.

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8. Sullivan Is the Only American-Born Coach to Win Multiple Cups

As the Penguins entered the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, head coach Mike Sullivan and Nashville Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette made history, becoming the first pair of American-born coaches to meet in the Stanley Cup Final.

After the Penguins won the series, 4-2, Sullivan notched his own piece of history, becoming the first American-born coach to win multiple Cups.

Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach
Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bill Stewart became the first American-born coach to win the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1938 before Pittsburgh’s “Badger” Bob Johnson did it in 1991. Others to follow include, John Tortorella (Tampa Bay in 2004), Laviolette (Carolina in 2006) and Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh in 2009).

7. Pens Sold Out Every Home Game From 2007 to 2018

During the 2006-07 season, the Penguins were a team on the rise after drafting face-of-the-franchise Crosby and becoming one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the league.

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On Valentine’s Day in 2007, Mellon Arena was sold out and consequently started a streak unlike any other. The streak, now over 600 games as of Jan. 2020, is not only the longest active streak, but the longest in NHL history.

6. Penguins Switched to Black & Gold Midseason

The Penguins struggled mightily in the early years of the franchise. While the Pirates and Steelers thrived in the Steel City during the 1970s, the Penguins hardly got past the first round while donning blue and yellow uniforms.

In an effort to identify with the Pittsburgh sports scene, Penguins management decided to make the switch to the beloved black and gold.

Rick Kehoe
BOSTON, MA. – 1970’s: Rick Kehoe #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins wears a blue jersey against the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Usually, a team will re-brand during the offseason, but the Penguins shifted gears midseason before a home game with the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 30, 1980. At the time, the home team would wear a predominantly white jersey, but the Blues agreed to wear their white uniforms on the road to show off the new threads.

“I think it’s important to do something our fans will approve of. They’ve expressed an interest in changing to black and gold. I think everybody in Pittsburgh identifies with those colors, so why shouldn’t the Penguins identify with them, too?”

Pittsburgh Penguins center Greg Malone

5. The Birth of the “Penguins” Nickname

When Jack McGregor was awarded the NHL franchise in 1966, many competitions through local radio stations and media entities were held to help decide the team name. However, McGregor’s then-wife, Carol, casually suggested the nickname of the Penguins.

As documented in Bob Grove’s book, Pittsburgh Penguins: The Official History of the First 30 Years, Carol described a conversation with Jack:

“I was thinking of something with a P. And I said to Jack, ‘What do they call the Civic Arena?’ And he said, ‘The Big Igloo.’ So I thought ice. . . Pittsburgh. . . Penguins.”

Carol McGregor, wife of then-owner Jack McGregor

Although not everyone was thrilled with the name, the McGregor’s stuck with the name and the rest is history.

4. Crosby Lived With the Lemieuxs

From the moment the Penguins took Crosby No. 1 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the star youngster shacked up at Lemieux’s residence in Sewickley. Yes, while Crosby was lighting up the league in the early years of his career, he was part of the Lemieux family. Crosby, however, moved out in 2010.

“There wasn’t a moment where I thought, ‘I need to move out.’ You wait for the right situation and the right place. Obviously, for me, privacy is important – and the area where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to rush into buying a place just to buy a place. I wanted to make sure it was the right place.”

Sidney Crosby via Pro Hockey Talk | NBC Sports

Many have seen the notable Penguins logo, but did you know the triangle in the background of the logo has a meaning?

Pittsburgh Golden Triangle
Pittsburgh Golden Triangle (Steve Tiesdell Legacy Collection, CC BY 2.0 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)

The triangle, in fact, is meant to replicate the “Golden Triangle,” a spot in downtown Pittsburgh at the junction of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers (also known around the area as the ‘Three Rivers’).

2. Pens’ Goalie Was Last to Wear Mask

In the early days of the NHL, the last line of defense, the goalies, did not wear masks. It wasn’t until Montreal Canadiens’ netminder Jacques Plante decided he had enough in 1959 after receiving his latest batch of stitches. Plante had a plaster mold made of his face and donned the mask in a November game against the Rangers.

Not every goalie shared the same fear that Plante did and many netminders continued to play mask-less. Eventually, the entire goalie community was masked, leaving one mask-less goaltender: Pittsburgh’s Andy Brown. Brown went mask-less in a game against the Rangers on April 7, 1974, and did not play another game in the league, ending the history of the mask-less goaltenders.

1. Mascot Used to Be a Real Live Penguin

Every Penguin fan is familiar with the beloved mascot, Iceburgh. But, before the fluffy and artificial mascot skated around Pittsburgh ice, the Pittsburgh franchise originally used a real live Penguin, borrowed from the Pittsburgh Zoo named Pete. (from ‘The bizarre and sad story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first mascot: Penguin Pete,’ Ottawa Citizen, 03/19/2017)

Pete, an Ecuadorian penguin, debuted in a February game against cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers during the Penguins’ inaugural season in 1967-68.

Eventually, Pete was retired and the Pittsburgh Zoo loaned another penguin named Re-Pete. Until the Penguins and the NHL restart the season, we will all have to wait for more facts to surface.

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