Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, left, and Drew Parish, marketing manager for the foundation, pull apart the pieces of Mario Lemieux's locker on Nov. 4.
By Sean D. Hamill Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Officially, the person who successfully bid $36,987.66 to win the November auction of the dual Mario Lemieux-Sidney Crosby lockers from Mellon Arena wishes to remain anonymous.
"The winning bidder is very private," Nancy Angus, the executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, said last week, declining to give a name. The attached lockers were auctioned to benefit the foundation.
But this was not like trying to figure out what really happened to the Air Force's B-25 that crashed in the Monongahela in 1956, or whether it was a UFO or a Russian satellite that fell to the ground in Kecksburg, Pa., in 1965, or whether Frenchy Fuqua really touched the ball before Franco Harris caught the Immaculate Reception in 1972.
In perhaps the least mysterious Pittsburgh mystery in recent memory, the anonymous winning bidder's screen name was "fbuonomo," which die-hard Penguins fan could quickly decipher as a foreshortened version of Frank Buonomo, the Penguins' director of team operations.
A slightly more fastidious hockey fan might also sleuth that: 1) One of Mr. Buonomo's primary jobs is to be the media gatekeeper for Mr. Crosby specifically; 2) Mr. Crosby already has an exact replica of his Mellon Arena locker at his home in Nova Scotia and just last year bought a new home in the Pittsburgh area that perhaps had some room to fill; and 3) in a Post-Gazette article in November, Mr. Crosby told the Post-Gazette that he might have some interest in bidding on the lockers himself.
Not that Mr. Buonomo or Mr. Crosby would acknowledge all this good detective work.
On Tuesday, Mr. Buonomo acknowledged being the winning bidder, but would say no more than that except to add that the lockers would eventually be put on display at the Consol Energy Center for some period of time.
Mr. Crosby, though -- in a bit of deft political-speak -- would neither confirm nor deny that Mr. Buonomo was acting on his behalf, saying only: "They're not in my possession."
That much is absolutely true, Ms. Angus said.
"The lockers are still sitting here outside my office," she said.
But after told what seems to be obvious this week, Ms. Angus could only laugh when told what Mr. Buonomo's bid name was.
"He's not going to have a career as a spy or anything," she said.
Wednesday Mr. Buonomo added some details, saying "the big thing for the anonymous bidder was to find a way to give to the Lemieux Foundation and preserve a piece of history."
It will be a couple of weeks before the lockers are encased in a protective cover, and then set up, first, on the suite level at the arena "so as many fans as possible can see it before it finds a final home."
More importantly to Ms. Angus and Mr. Lemieux and his wife, Nathalie, the locker raised way more than the opening asking price of $12,500, thanks to some spirited bidding between Mr. Buonomo and four others over the last two days that drove the price up from $20,066 (those numbers 66 and 87 kept appearing in the bid prices for some reason) to the winning bid on Nov. 18.
The final bid -- $36,987.66 -- may very well be the most ever paid for a hockey locker, according to experts in the field.
"It's not the most ever paid for a locker. I'm aware of some private transactions in baseball in the six figures," said Dan Imler, managing director of SCP Auctions of Laguna Niguel, Calif. "But I'd be very surprised if it's not the most ever paid for a hockey locker."
Marc Juteau, owner of Classic Collectibles of Quebec, Canada, which specializes in hockey memorabilia, agreed.
"I've never heard of a hockey locker going for that much," he said. "But, it's two great players and legends. Why wouldn't it?"
The lockers' sale was to benefit a Lemieux Foundation charity started by Ms. Lemieux, Austin's Playroom, which has built 21 new play areas in hospitals in Western Pennsylvania and has four more in the works.
The auction and related fundraising is specifically trying to raise enough money to pay for the most expensive playroom the foundation has ever built, and the first one ever built outside of Western Pennsylvania.
The 2,000-square-foot playroom is expected to cost about $125,000 and will be built in the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., a $641 million hospital serving all military branches.
The auction -- which also included the sale of sticks, jerseys and hats -- raised about $60,000. Corporate sponsors kicked in $42,500, and a texting campaign has raised $4,500 so far, with more coming in, for a total of about $107,000.
"We could probably use about another $20,000," Ms. Angus said.
Donations -- anonymous or not -- are still welcome.