Pomp, pageantry hits full tilt for Pens

Updated: June 15, 2009, 5:55 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Just call it the city of champions.

Four months after celebrating the Steelers' sixth Super Bowl victory, Pittsburgh Police estimated 375,000 people converged downtown again for a parade, this time in honor of the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

People lined streets -- in some places standing 20 deep or crowding onto multilevel parking garages -- to get a glimpse of the team and the cup.

[+] EnlargeEvgeni Malkin
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicEvgeni Malkin of the Penguins celebrates Monday as he rides along the Stanley Cup victory parade route in Pittsburgh.

One woman, who initially said her name was "The Greatest Pittsburgh Penguins Fan Ever" but then noted most people call her Alison Coyle, drove eight hours from her home in Brick, N.J. to attend Monday's parade. Arriving in Pittsburgh at 2 a.m., the 45-year-old thought she might get some sleep, but was so excited she was up by 6.

"I would give both my arms and both my legs to be here," Coyle said, donning a Sidney Crosby jersey and holding her camera above her head to try to get a better shot of the players.

The Penguins won their third Stanley Cup Friday in a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The parade followed the same route that drew an estimated 300,000 fans in February for the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII victory.

"This is great and there's gonna be many more," said Andrew Mehlich, 30, of Pittsburgh, who attended the parade with several family members.

Chanting "Let's go Pens," fans honked plastic horns and cheered. Team captain Crosby held the cup in the air as he rode in the back of a truck alongside goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Thank you guys," Crosby told the crowd. "What can I say? I mean the support you guys have given us, the support you have showed ... You deserve to be called the city of champions. You deserve the Stanley Cup."

One fan carried a handwritten sign: "Nothing like a Fleury in June." Others had homemade aluminum foil replicas of the prized cup and threw black-and-gold confetti -- the team's colors -- along the parade route. Forward Maxime Talbot jumped out of a car to shake hands with fans.

"It's a holiday for Pittsburgh," said Michelle Solkovy, 31, of Pittsburgh, who took the day off work and brought her 4-year-old daughter, Kendall, to the parade.

Betti Labbe, 40, and her husband Joe Szekeres, 44, of Frederick, Md., drove to Pittsburgh Sunday night. Szekeres is a lifelong Penguins fan who attends about five games a year -- but his wife needed a little more coaxing.

"It was them or divorce so I picked the Penguins," Labbe said.

Melanie Milko, 46, who's from the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin and said she used to cut former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr's mother's hair, said Monday's celebration was better than the fan rallies held after the 1991 and 1992 championships.

"There's a lot more respect for hockey everywhere," said Milko, who painted the numbers of her 10 favorite players on her fingernails for the parade. "Hockey's it."

Many fans wore new T-shirts saying "Steel City Champions." Others opted for the old-style, light blue Penguins jerseys.

Some fans are season ticket holders who often see the Pens play live. Others are like twins Peter and Nick Ellefson, 14, of Beaver Falls, who have only seen it on TV. Still, Peter summed up the victory in one word: "Sweet!"

Kevin Greager, 35, drove about three hours from Greencastle with his son Kody, 8, and daughter Kelsey, 5. Graeger said when he heard Sunday the parade was happening he knew he had to come despite the long drive.

"We don't know when they're going to win the cup again so we're going to Pittsburgh one way or another," Greager, a firefighter in Frederick, Md., said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press