Twenty-two players gather to play golf and celebrate

20th reunion 1991 Stanley Cup Champions


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Smiles, jokes and memories circulated Tuesday at Valley Brook Country Club as the Penguins held their annual charity alumni golf outing. This year, it doubled as a 20th anniversary celebration of the club's first Stanley Cup.

Twenty-two members of the 1990-91 team were among the golfers. Here are a handful of their favorite stories from that run to the championship:

• After the Penguins lost the first two games of the Wales Conference final at Boston, winger Kevin Stevens boldly predicted they would come back to win the series.

"Everybody has a story inside a story," Stevens recalled. "That was one that caught fire because it worked. If it hadn't worked, it would have been a big problem, I'll tell you that much.

PG VIDEO: SALUTING THE '91 CHAMPS

"I think I was more mad than anything. We had just lost the second game. We were coming home down, 2-0, which isn't the end of the world. I was pretty confident we were going to win the series. I think everybody believed it. We all kind of took it and ran with it. Thank God, the team did come back and win."

In fact, the Penguins won four in a row to move on to the final against Minnesota.

• In Game 6 of the final, the Penguins were leading the North Stars, 6-0, after two periods en route to a clinching, 8-0 win. Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy can still picture the dressing room.

"Guys couldn't sit down. Guys couldn't shut up," Murphy said. "I just remember a bunch of guys yelling, 'Shut up. Just relax. Keep your head on straight.'

"We still had 20 minutes to play. Everybody was thinking about what should be at the end of the next 20 minutes. It was like an 8-year-old hockey team in the dressing room, how giddy and excited everybody was at that moment. It had been a long haul, a two-month marathon in the playoffs.

"I was so excited I couldn't see straight. That was an interesting 15 minutes. To me, that was the most memorable moment of that season."

• Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux missed the first 50 games that season because of back problems, and it wasn't until a 9-3-2 stretch run that the Penguins began playing at a consistently high level.

That had an effect on the players' psyche as they approached the postseason.

"That was a loose bunch of guys," defenseman Peter Taglianetti said. "Everybody was having so much fun at that time. The team started playing really well, and it was just a bunch of goofballs who would try anything.

"Right before the playoffs started, we were playing the [New York] Rangers. Frankie Pietrangelo and Wendell Young were the two goalies in that game. In the locker room, guys put money up if they would -- in the middle of the game, while play was going on -- switch goalies. Like an on-the-fly switch. Everybody was throwing in, like, a hundred dollars.

"Right in the middle of the game, when the play went down to the Rangers' end, Frankie Pietrangelo skated off the ice, and Wendell jumped on the ice, and nobody knew about it. It's legal. Then three or four minutes later, they switched back. The scorers didn't know it happened or anything. We were just dying on the bench laughing."

• The team was a mix of veterans and young players. Bryan Trottier was 32 and had won four Cups with the Islanders, but he was taken by the wide range of leadership.

"It was really kind of neat," the Hall of Fame forward said. "One guy would say something, which would just spur great conversation, motivation, inspiration right at the right times. We were coming in off a loss against New Jersey, and Gordie Roberts out of the blue in the middle of the dressing room said, 'Hey, guys, we've got a little more in us. Let's find a way.' And even though Mario was hurt, we found a way."

Trottier, though, rarely spoke, so, when he did, his teammates put out an E.F. Hutton alert.

"If I did say something, the guys kind of looked and stared ... and I thought I'd better say the right thing," he said. "It was neat to have that respect. At times, they would huddle around and say, 'What's going to happen the next round?'

"Maybe earlier in my career, I was a little bit of the engine in New York, but coming here to Pittsburgh, I felt a little like the caboose keeping everybody on the track."

• Defenseman Randy Hillier was 31, another veteran. Besides the closeness of the team and the infectious positive outlook of coach "Badger" Bob Johnson, Hillier was most impressed with three young forwards.

"The young line, Stevens, [John] Cullen and [Mark] Recchi," Hillier said. "Those guys, collectively, they were united in the offseason in not signing contract extensions. I think they all went out and had something to prove. And they got a chance to prove it together on the same line, which I thought was great."

Recchi led the team with 113 points, Cullen followed with 94 and Stevens was fifth with 86. Cullen, though, was traded to Hartford in March in a blockbuster deal.

"I'll give them credit. Thank heavens for what they did," Hillier said. "Mario was out for a good part of that year, and those guys carried us. They were all young kids and they were all playing for something other than the common goal of the team. It was beneficial for all."


For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721


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