Where were you?
It’s a date mired in obscurity for most people. June 1, 1992 is not a well known date for the average world citizen. Sure, June 1, 1977 was a big day. For me, at least. I was born. But June 1, 1992…for a select group, that day was huge. Beyond description. Beyond comprehension.
Give up? It was the day Pittsburgh became two-time, back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 in Game 4 of that year’s Finals. The second Cup came after a rough season for the Pens, who were supposed to be riding the wave after their first ever Cup win in 1991, demolishing the Minnesota North Stars 8-0 in Game 6 of the Finals.
But their coach passed away, superstar Mario Lemieux suffered back pain, and their roster was shaken up by several late season trades. Hardly a glow for a defending Stanley Cup champion…but adversity only made them stronger.
So I ask…where were you on June 1, 1992? I was in my grandparents’ living room, celebrating my 15th birthday with the wild win that clinched another banner for the Penguins. I had cake and a large bottle of Pepsi (not much has changed), and enduring the nervous tension that goes along with being 15 years old and not realizing that life existed out of high school, girls, and hockey, and watching your favorite team compete for what you considered to be all that mattered in the world.
It was a wild affair, with Pittsburgh striking first…then having Chicago tie it. Then Pittsburgh struck again…and Chicago tied it. Then Pittsburgh stubbornly went ahead again…and yes, Chicago tied it. It was a test of nerves that only Penguins and Blackhawks fans could relate to. 4-3 Pens…suddenly 4-4…and the nail biting continued.
In the end, Pittsburgh drove all-star goalie Ed Belfour from the Chicago goal after only the second goal in favor of then-rookie Dominik Hasek…who then proceeded to show the world why he was the best unknown goalie in the world…repeatedly shutting down the Pens’ high powered attack. In the end, Pittsburgh squeaked enough goals past him to win the Cup…I shudder to think what may have happened had Chicago won and Hasek got on any roll at all.
Pittsburgh fans will always remember the 1991 and 1992 Cup wins as the best times in franchise history. I don’t know if it’s the fact we grew up, or the fact that the NHL is so different than that era, or maybe a combination of both…but the 2009 Cup win, while special, wasn’t extraordinary in memory like the 1990’s Cup wins were. And so, we Pens fans who are fortunate to cherish those back to back wins within our memories, look back on this day fondly, and perhaps with a tear of what we had as youth…and perhaps what we lost with age. Tears of loss for an age we can never return to…an age of innocence and celebration…and an era of hockey in which we watched Mario Lemieux give us a hero…and perhaps an era in which we could forget the real world and all rally around a single point of history…a time in which Penguins fans from all ages and regions of the world were one in joy and purpose.