Hot Times in the Igloo

Went to the Penguins-Canadiens game Thursday night (2/1) in the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Work related, not purely for fun, although it was a fun game. The Igloo is a complete toilet by most standards of modern ice hockey arenas. The ceiling is low and domed, there are a scant few luxury boxes, there is exposed ironwork that leads to some creative views, and it’s impossible to walk anywhere on the concourse. If Denver’s Pepsi Center is a 9, and the Continental Airlines Arena is a 5, then the Igloo is about a 2 on a good day. It does have character, and it does capture the complete essence of Pittsburgh sports (I rubbed the Willie Stargell plaque in the Gate 1 entry just because). Aside from that, it’s an inelegant place for an elegant game.

Nobody cares. The fans come to watch some outstanding hockey.

The house was packed. Literally: Sold out, over 17,400 people, all standing room slots filled. And nobody was masquerading as a red seat; every seat had a butt in it. Only two thirds of the crowd was male; and there were a significant number of school age kids there. The Penguins have a following, whether from outstanding young players, local television exposure, loyal fan base, long-lived family traditions, the consistency of Pittsburgh sports theming (all teams are black and gold, from Pirates to Steelers to Penguins), or just because the Igloo is a good place to get out of the snow on a Thursday night. The guy two rows in front of me was giving me high-fives on every Penguins goal, and I didn’t have the heart or cajones to tell him I was secretly rooting for Montreal to keep a double-digit distance between the Burgh and the Swamp teams.

Down the stretch if the Penguins need that little push over the edge, the bit that makes them “go to eleven”, they’ll get it from the guy in Section 21 who hollers “Colby” to Colby Armstrong every shift, like a dog barking at the moon, or from the guy who took his son into the men’s room and was proudly demonstrating use of the trough system (outside of Fenway Park and the old Princeton Stadium, it’s the only other urinal trough I’ve seen for that many people).

Attention, Devils fans: The Steel City cannot out posture us down the stretch.

Sole disappointment of the night (aside from the Penguins pulling it out in the shootout): Didn’t make it to Primanti Brothers for a sausage, peppers, slaw and french fry sandwich. Last one I had was two years ago and I’m still dreaming of it.