Sunday, September 26, 2010


          By Angelo Spagnolo, Publisher

Make no mistake about it, I am still doing a major burn over the Mayor, the Penguins and the Sports and Exposition Authority selling out en masse to the developers who are apparently throwing around wads of cash here in the city.. They all supposedly prefer seeing the iconic Pittsburgh Civic Arena converted into a shopping mall or housing. I still maintain that it is embarassingly short-sighted of all of these people that this incredible structure may now not be reused, but instead, destroyed. What kind of creativity does that show? None. But what it does show is that people can still be bought.

How amazing that the Penguins, who have so quickly and shockingly abandoned the very symbol of their team over these yo last 40-some years, could be so wrong on one decision and so very right on another?

I may not agree with their real estate decisions, but when it comes to decisions they've made regarding strictly their fans, these guys are in another universe altogether. Case in point; The Penguins decision to give away over 8,000 tickets to kids in the region who are involved in youth hockey or who are simply underpriviliged. What an incredibly brilliant move!

I can remember back in the 60's, when I was playing youth baseball, that the Pittsburgh Pirates had their "knothole club" where entire teams would be admitted into the right field grandstands for free, or just a buck (I can't exactly remember) provided that the teams wore their baseball uniforms. I can remember being in a gigantic line that snaked through the area outside the left field wall and even made a loop around the Schenley Fountain, located near the Carnegie Museum. That was a lot of kids!!! We made a lot of noise too, just like the kids did last night!

The key point is that 45 years later, I still remember that day and always will...especially seeing a Clemente home run ball land about one section away from me. I was electrified by this! In that same game, Clemente came up for one of his patented basket catches...and he dropped the ball! The stupid runner thought that he could take second on"The Great One" and was out by about 20 feet at second.

The reason why I'm relating this baseball story in a column about free hockey tickets is that 40 or so years from now, those of you who are young enough to still be around will be able to read the vivid recollections of many of those 8,000 free passes that were handed out yesterday. They'll be talking about Gino Malkin lowering the boom in a fight or the "Flower" standing on his head in the second and third periods. They'll also still be gushing about being in the brand new Consol Energy Center on a free ticket no less!

But the biggest thing that they'll be remembering is that, "This was when I became a Penguin fan for life." They will also have purchased thousands of dollars of tickets, hot dogs, cokes, nachos and souvenirs. they will also have helped the Penguins to retain and even grow their amazing television viewing numbers.

The Penguins made one of the smartest investments they could have ever made yesterday. Their marketing and fan relations are unrivaled anywhere in sports.

Now all that they have to do is make some improvements in how they handle former arenas that happen to be city icons and they'll be possibly the most perfect sports franchise ever!