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Thread: Civic, er, Mellon Arena home to some good memories

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    Palmetto Steel's Avatar
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    Default Civic, er, Mellon Arena home to some good memories

    Civic, er, Mellon Arena home to some good memories

    Goodbye, Civic Arena.

    That's what they were calling what is now known as Mellon Arena on Oct. 14 1961, the night that I went to the first hockey game ever played there.

    The Pittsburgh Hornets played the Buffalo Bisons - a 2-1 Buffalo win - that night and my tickets were a 13th birthday present from my Aunt Gertrude, who took me to the game.

    I remember feeling that she probably knew more about what was going on that night than most of the 9,000-plus people in the building. She was born and raised in Canada.

    There were no ice rinks close to our neighborhood at the time, so there weren't a lot of kids who were into hockey. But for some reason, I spent a lot of Saturday nights at the Civic Arena watching the Hornets. I'll have to admit that I remember the heated "hockey" games that we played in the concourse with smashed-in Coke cups as much as anything that happened on the ice.

    There could still be several games played in the old Igloo depending on how far the Penguins go in the playoffs, but they celebrated the last regular-season game there Thursday night.

    Many of the best and most-exciting moments were provided by the Penguins, but they also provided some of the ugliest moments.

    I was there for a lot of them. And I didn't have much company - 6,000 fans and plenty of empty seats in the press box.

    For some reason, one of the moments that has stuck with me came during Mario Lemieux's second home game in 1984.

    The building was only about half full and it was easy to hear individual comments being yelled by fans who had come to expect the worst. From my seat in the press box, I heard this coming from the other side of the building: "Come on, Lemieux, you dog."

    I'm sure Lemieux heard it, too.

    It was his second game. He was 19-years-old. Penguins fans had become just a tad impatient.

    I remember plenty of great non-hockey moments in the Civic Arena. Remember when the Pitt-Duquesne basketball game would sell out? Those games in the late 1970s and early '80s were as exciting as any sports event in Pittsburgh every year. During those years, the Eastern 8 tournament didn't have the importance that the Big East tournament now has, but local college basketball has never been more interesting.

    Remember Renaldo Snipes?

    He fought and almost beat Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship at the Civic Arena in 1981. If not for an especially long count, Holmes would have lost by a knockout.

    It was pretty exciting around here the week before that fight. Don King was in town and eventually Howard Cossell showed up to work the fight for ABC.

    Nothing that happened inside that building created more excitement than the closed-circuit boxing matches.

    Ali-Frazier I. Ali-Norton. The Thrilla in Manila. Leonard-Duran. Hearns-Hagler. Leonard-Hearns. Leonard-Hagler.

    It's hard to believe that so much excitement could be generated by a big TV screen with a bad picture. I guess, as Mike Lange would say, you had to be there to believe it.

    I had to sit through way too many Pittsburgh Spirit indoor soccer games. I was paid to be there.

    The only NBA game I've ever seen was played at the Civic Arena. Believe it or not, the Philadelphia 76ers played some regular-season games there a long, long time ago.

    I "broadcasted" my first basketball game out of the Civic Arena in 1973. I was working for Color Channel 3 in Sharon and we recorded Sharon High School in the WPIAL playoffs on our black-and-white camera and hurried it back to Sharon to be replayed late that same night.

    What I remember most about that assignment was almost cancelling the taping because of the cost of the union electrician who we were forced to use. The guy met us at our courtside camera position and plugged the camera in. When the game was over, he unplugged it.

    He had to be paid time-and-a-half for eight hours and that almost caused the station owner to pull the plug on the telecast. He was called in only to plug and unplug our camera. It was the only way we would be allowed to record the game. We would have been OK if our camera had been able to run on batteries.

    I always found that to be a little strange. And pathetic.

    The Civic Arena was good for plenty of non-sports moments.

    I went to several "Shower of Stars" events. They were presented by KQV Radio, which used to be the rock station in Pittsburgh.

    The lineups were amazing. I remember one show headlined by the Four Seasons that also included the Yardbirds and Chuck Berry. There also was an act that almost got booed off the stage that night. It was two raggedy looking guys who were introducing their new single. Their name sounded like an accounting firm. Simon and Garfunkel sang "Sounds of Silence" while many in the audience were yelling for them to get off the stage.

    Aunt Gertrude came through for my sister, Mary, too. She got her and her friend, Patti Burns, (yep, that Patti Burns) tickets to see the Beatles. We couldn't believe how much she had to pay for the tickets:

    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    (419)BlackNGold's Avatar
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    Default Re: Civic, er, Mellon Arena home to some good memories

    Unfortunately, I've never been there. ...Heck I've only been to Pittsburgh once in my life. My girlfriends kid played a football game in New Kensington, PA??? We had Sunday breakfast at a Bob Evans and I was shocked that everyone had Steelers gear on! I mean EVERYONE!!!

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