PITTSBURGH – After a false start last week, Pittsburgh Penguins fans came through in a huge way Wednesday for the team’s Stanley Cup victory parade.
Fans – and the Pittsburgh Penguins, for that matter – were poised to celebrate the Stanley Cup championship after a home game last Thursday, when they jammed the streets downtown and forced officials to put up a second video screen to watch the game outside. But the San Jose Sharks had a different idea, winning Game 5 and sending the series back to California.
No problem. The Penguins settled the issue by winning the championship in a tense game in San Jose on Sunday, leading to what city officials called a record crowd jamming downtown streets Wednesday for the parade. Some in the crowd, estimated at 380,000 to 400,000, waited hours in the morning sun to honor their conquering heroes.
They weren’t disappointed. The hour-long parade had more than a few special moments, such as retired forward Pascal Dupuis jumping off the back of a pickup truck to slap high-fives with fans and captain Sidney Crosby walking slowly with Lord Stanley’s famous hardware so lucky fans behind the stage could touch the fruits of victory.
Fans began arriving not long after daybreak in an effort to get prime viewing space. In a difference from past sports parades, the city set plastic or metal barriers 8 to 10 feet from the curb – rather than at curbside – to accommodate more revelers along the Boulevard of the Allies.
Instead of one large video screen at the stage, this time there were two, with the second at Grant Street and the Boulevard.
It was a pure Pittsburgh event with players’ families and other team personnel riding in amphibious boats provided by Just Ducky Tours or Molly’s Trolleys while players and officials rode in convertibles or on the backs of pickup trucks. Even though there was no ice, even the Zamboni machine made the trip down the parade route.
Fans filled the usual places, dangling from the parking garage at Smithfield and the Boulevard, the roof of the Pavilion X building and windows in the AFSCME and Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh buildings on the Boulevard.
For the most part, it was an orderly throng.
“The event was incredible. It went well, other than the heat,” said Guy Costa, the city’s chief of operations. “It was a great crowd, well behaved. We’re very pleased with the event. It was a great day for Pittsburgh and the Penguins.”
Public safety officials reported 15 people transported by medics for treatment of heat-related symptoms and another 65 treated at the scene. There were no arrests.
Once the parade ended, players and other team personnel took the stage with television play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald serving as master of ceremonies. He fired up the crowd by encouraging them to cheer “We won the cup,” a variation of the common Consol Energy Center chant of, “We want the cup.”
Crosby and general manager Jim Rutherford, introduced as the “sultan of swap” for making key trades that led to the championship, said the team was disappointed when it couldn’t close out the series at home.
“We were overwhelmed (by the fan response) in that Game 5,” Rutherford said, referring to the home loss last week. “We tried to bring it home for you (that night).”
When Steigerwald introduced the renowned HBK line – Paul Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel – Hagelin and Bonino deferred their remarks to Kessel. Instead of speaking, Kessel responded by picking up the cup and pumping it over his head to thunderous applause.
Perhaps the loudest cheers weren’t for players but for broadcasters.
Hall of Fame announcer Mike Lange recounted his newest signature call for a Penguins goal, which he said could only work in Pittsburgh because of the local vernacular: “Start frying the jumbo, Homer. Extra crispy, please.”
His color sidekick, former player Phil Bourque, reprised his suggestion from the Penguins’ 1991 championship when he encouraged fans to join him down by the river and “party all summer.”
And the crowd went bonkers when Harnarayan Singh, the Hockey Night Punjabi broadcaster, took the stage. Thousands joined him when he recreated his game-winning call of a Nick Bonino goal: BoninoBoninoBoninoBonino . Nick Bo-ni-no!“
Perhaps Rutherford summed up the feelings of the crowd best: ”See you here next year.“
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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