Post-Gazette staff writer Dave Molinari, who has covered the Penguins beat for the past 26 seasons, is being honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Elmer Ferguson Award today, recognizing his contributions to the game of hockey over his long and distinguished career.
Molinari will be honored today at Mellon Arena by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and later this fall at the Hockey Hall of Fame luncheon before induction ceremonies.
"The Groucho Marx line about not wanting to belong to any club that would have me for a member comes immediately to mind, but the reality is that it's humbling and gratifying to be deemed worthy of inclusion in a group with people for whom I have so much respect and, in some cases, reverence," Molinari said. "Simply knowing most of them has been a privilege. To be considered one of them is an honor beyond description. The Ferguson is presented to individuals but, at least in this instance, reflects the work of many people, ranging from the editors for whom I've worked to dozens of co-workers and colleagues, and even some competitors."
Molinari started covering the Penguins for the Pittsburgh Press in the summer of 1983. The Penguins finished last in the NHL that season with 38 points, and as a result, received the No. 1 pick in the entry draft.
The Penguins used that pick to draft Mario Lemieux, who now is co-owner of the team.
"On behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, I want to congratulate Dave Molinari for this well-deserved award," Lemieux said. "For more than 25 years, Dave has provided Pittsburgh sports fans with tremendous coverage of the Penguins and the NHL. We now consider ourselves very fortunate to be covered by two media members who have received Hall of Fame Awards -- Dave and Mike Lange, who received the Foster Hewitt Award for broadcasters in 2001."
Penguins vice president Tom McMillan has known Molinari going back to their days as young reporters at the Press, where they broke into the newspaper business covering high school sports.
McMillan, a former Penguins beat reporter at the Post-Gazette, competed against Molinari for years when they worked at Pittsburgh's two major dailies.
"It's well-deserved and probably overdue," McMillan said. "For hockey writers in the United States, he has been among the elite for many years. He'll never admit it, but it's his passion. To do it that well, to maintain his level of excellence for that long, is amazing."
McMillan jokes with Molinari that when they broke into the business they were covering players 10 years their senior. Now they are 10 years older than Sidney Crosby's father.
"You realize what you have when you work with someone that good for that long," McMillan said. "But I don't think the fans realize what they have with Dave. He has provided the fans with a level of excellence for years. I think this award will make people appreciate what they have in him even more."
"This is a great honor for Dave and the Post-Gazette," said Jerry Micco, the Post-Gazette's assistant managing editor for sports. "I can't think of a more deserving person. His many years of top-notch work on the Penguins and his coverage of the National Hockey League now have been richly rewarded."
Molinari has covered Hall of Fame players, coaches and executives in his time on the beat, including Lemieux, Bob Johnson, Scotty Bowman, Herb Brooks, Craig Patrick, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis and Bryan Trottier.
Now he'll have his name on a wall inside the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where those greats of the game are enshrined.
"I've been fortunate to have covered one of the most interesting franchises in the NHL, a team that's experienced remarkable highs and lows during my time on the beat," he said. "I've seen the Penguins win a couple of Stanley Cups and survive more than a few fiscal crises, including the one that ended in bankruptcy. I've also been able to watch, on a daily basis, some of the greatest talents the sport has produced during the past quarter-century. The Penguins haven't always been easy to cover, but they've almost never been boring."
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1230.