By Mark Campbell
Do you remember Ken Schinkel? Dean Prentice? Jean Pronovost? Probably not. How about Mario Lemieux? Yes, that one you know. Many people – even hockey fans – believe the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins began with Mario Lemieux. That is something Greg Enright hopes to change with his book on the first 25 years of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Born in Montreal, Greg currently lives in the Centennial area, so it is only natural that he is a Penguins fan. Right? Growing up in “la belle province” it seemed as though everyone was a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Everyone except Greg who at 7 or 8 years of age was enamoured by the team whose logo was a hockey playing penguin.
The book itself is a labour of love. After a lifetime of dreaming about it, four years of effort were spent researching, interviewing and writing. The story begins the year before the Penguins first hit the ice in 1967 as part of the modern NHL’s first expansion beyond six teams. Greg breaks down each season in a chapter of its own.
The team spent many years in the basement of the standings until that other Montrealer by the name of Lemieux came to town. Success was anything but overnight, even after the arrival of the “Magnificent One” as it was a further seven years before he delivered the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.
Greg decided to write the book because there is not a lot documented on the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He describes the process as “the thrill of discovery as an adult after viewing the story through the lens of a 12-year-old.”
The city of Pittsburgh has traditionally been a football town, with most of the attention given to the Steelers and their storied history. Next are baseball’s Pirates, and then come the Penguins. In fact, in the Pens early years this was blatantly evident when they could attract no more than a few thousand fans at some games.
The book is an interesting read, even to the casual hockey fan. Greg spoke freely about the experience, even getting boyish at times when discussing his interviews with his childhood heroes and the hours spent poring over periodicals and research materials.
The book concludes after the Penguins’ second Stanley Cup in 1992. When pressed about whether he will write about the next 25 years, Enright is coy. “Probably not,” he says with a smile.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins: The First 25 Years” is available now in paperback and e-book format online at Indigo and Amazon.