Penguin fans gear up for victory parade by descending upon stores to buy Cup merchandise


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There was a skip in Pittsburgh's step yesterday, a smile that wouldn't stop.

Heck, it could have snowed and it still would have been a beautiful day in our neighborhood.

Winning the Stanley Cup Championship, as the young, scrappy, never-say-die Pittsburgh Penguins did Friday night over the Detroit Red Wings, has that kind of effect.

And when that ascendency comes just a little more than four months after the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl, well, it's just hard not to be Pittsburgh proud. The celebration of that good feeling will continue tomorrow at a victory parade Downtown.

"We're the City of Champions," crowed Barbara Meadows, 73, of Peters, who stayed up late watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and post-game celebration and interviews, but still arose at 5:30 a.m. to buy Pens championship gear at Dick's Sporting Goods at South Hills Village.

"Pittsburgh is such a great place for sports, such a great place to live."


City to honor its champs on Monday

The city will celebrate the Penguins' Stanley Cup victory with a parade that will begin at noon Monday at the intersection of Grant Street and Seventh Avenue, Downtown.

It will follow the same route as last February's Super Bowl parade. Proceeding through Grant Street, the parade will loop to the Boulevard of the Allies and end at Stanwix Street where a celebration will be held.

Road closures and additional information will be released today.


Another early-bird shopper, Dale Porter, 52, of Upper St. Clair, agreed: "This is so fantastic for Pittsburgh. Three Stanley Cups, six Super Bowls. Some cities never get to experience any of that."

Of course, he forgot to mention those World Series wins, too.

"My son called my house after the game and said it is surreal. It is. There's quite a bit of euphoria."

Ms. Meadows and Mr. Porter were among thousands of people who passed on a good night's sleep to be among the first to buy Stanley Cup Championship clothing, hats and keepsakes to remember June 12, 2009. But long after those T-shirts and hats become frayed and torn, one person will have something to remember the day by that won't wear out -- her name.

At about the time Friday night that the Detroit Red Wings began their futile third-period push to try to overcome the Pens, Ashley Lebowitz of Brookline began to push herself at Magee-Womens Hospital. The result of her labor was baby girl Sydney -- named in honor of Pen's star Sidney Crosby.

Yesterday, there were other stories, albeit less dramatic, related to the Pens stirring championship win 17 years after they last hoisted the Stanley Cup.

Jason Kuharic was so pumped by the victory that he couldn't sleep. As sales manager at Dick's Sporting Goods at South Hills Village, he had to be up early anyway to open the store at 7 a.m -- two hours earlier than normal -- to allow fans to purchase championship regalia. He figured he might as well just stay up.

Besides, he said, "I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I wanted to see what we'd be getting."

So he took a shower and headed to work early. By 6 a.m., a line of customers had already formed outside the store. Empathizing with their anticipation, he opened the store an hour early for them.

Dick's would have come out ahead regardless who won -- although he was happy it was Pittsburgh -- because the company has a store in Detroit, he said. Asked what he thought was happening there yesterday, he quipped, "They're probably not opening."

And then he added, "Unless they're having a sidewalk sale on Hossa shirts," referring to former Penguin Marian Hossa, who joined the Red Wings last year because he thought that team provided a better chance of winning a championship.

Within a few hours, more than 500 people had come and gone at Dick's, hauling bags crammed with championship T-shirts, as well as pennants, magnets and other doodads. So active was the selling that some sizes quickly sold out ,but shipments to restock the championship merchandise tables arrived all day.

Among the early-morning customers were cousins Amanda Hasco, 17, of Finleyville, and Mariah Chinchor, 18, of Osteen, Fla., who ran from a car into the store.

Ms. Hasco, a recent graduate of Ringgold High School, was looking for the perfect outfit for the afternoon graduation party she had to help set up -- a Pen's championship T-shirt. Alas, the store had temporarily sold out of everything but large and extra-large sizes. Off the cousins went to another Dick's outlet to find their size.

Dick's sales associate Jen Erny of Bethel Park said that unlike the Steelers, who were favorites in the Super Bowl, the Pens were viewed as underdogs, so manufacturers of championship merchandise didn't print the quantities they did for the Steelers. So much Steelers gear was printed early that Dick's was able to open right after the Super Bowl game ended.

But much-sought steel gray Stanley Cup championship hats didn't arrive at the store until 8:30 a.m. yesterday. Pent-up demand was so high that, for a time, Ms. Erny simply lifted them out of just-opened boxes and handed them to waiting customers without ever putting them on the sales table.

Elated buyers also queued in line at PenStation, the Penguins team store at Mellon Arena, for the post-championship opening at 7 a.m. Again, the 1,000 or so customers who crowded the store in the first 21/2 hours of operation snatched up so much merchandise that certain sizes sold out.

One unexpected shopper startled 200 or so shoppers who were waiting for ballcaps when he strolled into PenStation around 2 p.m. yesterday: Penguins star and 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin.

Less than 12 hours after the team returned from Detroit, the MVP and leading scorer of the playoffs entered the shop wearing shorts, a powder blue T-shirt and a ballcap while talking on his cell phone. Some fans inside almost immediately recognized him, and those who didn't soon realized he was there when a loud cheer and applause arose.

Apparently, he, too, had goodies to pick up. Mr. Malkin scooped up a pile of jerseys bearing his number 71 and checked out at the front desk. Not surprisingly, he was allowed to move to the front of the line. However, he paid for that, too: he spent more than five minutes signing autographs. Almost as quickly as he arrived, the center known as Geno had left the building.

Other customers crowding into the arena team store included Sam Palombia IV, 29, of Mount Washington, and his son, 4-year-old Sam Palombia V. Such ardent Pens fans are father and son that the elder Mr. Palombia proudly showed off a studio photo taken when his son was 1,wearing a Sidney Crosby game sweater.

Also wearing Sidney Crosby's "87" yesterday was new father Lee Crusa, 24, who said he is so fervent a Pens fan that he wanted to name his daughter after the Penguins captain -- albeit with a slightly different spelling.

At Magee, he and his fiancee, Ms. Lebowitz, 23, recovered yesterday from the near-collision of two huge events in their lives: the birth of their Sydney Grace Lebowitz and, minutes later, the Pens championship victory.

The couple, from Brookline, had different names in mind for their girl. Mr. Crusa favored Sydney, but Ms. Lebowitz preferred Sophie.

The couple planned to watch the game at home, but Sydney had other ideas -- something the couple learned when Ms. Lebowitz's contractions began at 6:30 a.m. Friday.

On Friday night, with a TV in the hospital room tuned to the game, Mr. Crusa kept an eye on the Penguins while comforting his fiancee.

"Lee was really sweet. He was holding my hand," she said. "I couldn't watch the game so he gave me the play-by-play. He rested his head on my head, but I knew what he was watching."

She feared a Detroit win would turn the name "Sydney" into a sour memory. But with the Pens leading in the third period and the baby's delivery just minutes away, Ms. Lebowitz acquiesced.

"You win," she said. "You'll get your Sydney."

At 10:15 p.m. Friday, their 6-pound 4-ounce daughter arrived.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh police and other agencies reported relatively few post-game problems Friday night. They made 33 arrests.

On the South Side, where the largest crowd of 7,000 people gathered, police arrested 31 people for failure to disperse, said Cmdr Scott Schubert, who oversees the city SWAT team. One of them also was charged with taunting a police animal, he said.

In Oakland, where the crowd was estimated at 1,500 people, one man was arrested for arson for burning a couch.

In Shadyside, one arrest was made for failure to disperse.

Compared to the post-Super Bowl celebration in February, Friday night's "crowd was more well behaved," Cmdr. Schubert said.

Two hours after city streets reopened yesterday, a flight carrying the Penguins arrived back in Pittsburgh. Resting in its own seat was the Stanley Cup.

"You always wonder how it's going to feel," said a tired but buoyant Tom McMillan, Penguins vice president of communications. "It feels even better than that."


Staff writer Chuck Finder contributed. Michael A. Fuoco can be reached at mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968; Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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