In sports, Boston, 'Burgh rivalry goes way back

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The Bruins and Penguins began their Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night, and in our effort to deliver all things Bruins-Penguins, we ask you to hop into the Jerry Trupiano Wayback Machine for some history of this rivalry and these old-timey sports cities.

• The Penguins wore dark blue, light blue and white as their colors when they first came into the league in 1967. They changed to black and gold in 1980, claiming it was an homage to the neighborhood champion Steelers and Pirates. Bruins boss Harry Sinden protested the change, claiming the Penguins were stealing Bruins colors.

Here's how it went down, according to the Sinden, who has been wearing black and gold for more than 40 years.

"It was one of the most depressing days in my time here," Sinden said. "One of the Pittsburgh [executives], Paul Martha, came up with the idea that the winning teams in Pittsburgh wore black and gold, and he wanted to change the Penguins uniforms to that color for that reason.

"I protested like hell over it because we'd had those colors for 60 years. We were the only team in the league with those colors, and it was a real identity for us.

"John Ziegler was the president of the league and he had his chief counselor, Gil Stein, research it. They came back and said that the Bruins' original colors were brown and yellow. I think they weren't quite black for a year or two in those old pictures. But we were known as black and gold.

"Pete Rozelle was NFL commissioner at this time. I said, 'In our town, the Bruins are winners. We win all the time. If we don't win championships, we win a lot of games, and we've won championships.'

"What do you think Pete Rozelle would say if the Patriots -- who were red, white, and blue -- came to him and said, 'The Bruins are winners, we'd like to have the same colors as the Bruins'? They would then have been the same colors as the Steelers, and Rozelle would have told the Patriots to take a hike. Which would have been the right thing to do.

"No matter how much I protested, it fell on deaf ears. I had a jersey made up with our uniform and the Bruins logo all made up in the Detroit Red Wings colors. I was going to bring it to the NHL board of directors and ask if I could change our uniforms to the same colors as the Red Wings.

"But they were already mad at me and I didn't have the guts to bring it out. I'd like to laugh about it, but I don't laugh about it because it was something I really treasured at that time.

"Pittsburgh's gold color is not exactly the same as our gold. That's one of the ways they tried to get around it. But that really bothered me. I told John Ziegler a couple of times that nothing pissed me off more than that."

• Jaromir Jagr's photo is included in the Penguins' "ring of fame" display in the home locker room. The Jagr display is above the locker of defenseman Mark Eaton. This is an unusual situation. The Bruins have photos of their own retired greats over players' stalls in the New Garden home locker room, but nobody is asking Patrice Bergeron to compete against Milt Schmidt or Phil Esposito after lacing up his skates underneath their photos.

Jagr hadn't played in the NHL for two seasons when Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center was completed and decorated in 2010. The Penguins never thought he'd be coming back into their new building with a rival team.

Now, he's done it twice in two years.

• Tyler Seguin was not yet born when Jagr played against the Bruins in the 1991 conference finals. Those games were played in the old Boston Garden and Pittsburgh's Igloo. The Bruins 1991 roster included Bob Beers, Lyndon Byers, Bob Sweeney, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Chris Nilan, Reggie Lemelin and Bob Carpenter.

The Bruins hotel headquarters was the Westin William Penn, which today is known at the Omni William Penn. The William Penn opened in 1916, and its website claims that JFK and Lawrence Welk slept there.

The late Earl Weaver also stayed there, but he was not a fan after his Orioles were beaten by the Pirates in the 1971 and '79 World Series. "I hate the place," Weaver said. "It's so old, I think William Penn was named after the hotel!"

• Sinden on the Penguins: "I think they've been a terrific hockey organization. Generally, they've really represented the game really well. Ray Shero is a top-notch GM. They are right there with the best organizations in hockey.

"We have a good chance. I think we're at least in the same position we were in with Vancouver. Vancouver was a solid favorite to beat us. That wound up being our best series of that playoff.

"But you know who is on this Pittsburgh team, and I think [Milan] Lucic calling them the Miami Heat is not very far off. What our team has is really good personality. They are not going to leave anything out there."


Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe.


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