Penguins Memories (part deux)

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The date: March 23, 1988. The site: Civic Arena. The event: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals – better known as the first hockey game I ever attended. Much to my surprise, I found the actual game program while rummaging through my old bedroom closet. The cover’s gone, but everything else is intact.

I remember this game vividly for a couple of reasons: free chili, Clint Malarchuk and crooked middle finger guy.

Not only did the Pens win the game, they scored 7 goals. This milestone meant everyone in attendance got a free cup of Wendy’s chili with their ticket stub. The “Chili! Chili!” chants were frequent when the Pens got 6. The roar of the crowd when number 7 went in was deafening. The late Malarchuk played a period in net, giving up two goals on only six shots. I remember this because a fan sitting nearby decided to heckle Malarchuk relentlessly. “You’re getting burned by the red light, Malarchuk! Your shorts are brown, Malarchuk!” I’m sure he’d had a few by the third period. Crooked middle finger guy was seated directly in front of us. Miffed at a particular call, he stood up and extended the digit. Under normal circumstances, this would have been no big deal. The dude, however, had a middle finger that bent severely at the knuckle as if broken. Priceless.

Here’s the boxscore from the game. Mario had a goal and 2 assists, as did Dan Quinn. Steve Guenette (?) got the win, and Randy Hillier had 12 penalty minutes.

Hard to believe, but this game started it all for me. One game, one beatdown of the Caps and I was hooked for life. Not sure what exactly did it, but hockey was then and is now an incomparable live sporting experience. Witnessing the game up close and personal can be memorable. At least it was for me.