story by lois thomson
for love of the game
THE VOICE Of
aul Steigerwald was reminiscing about his 30 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins, in par- ticular, an evening in June 1984 when Mario Lemieux came to town for the first time after being the #1 pick in the NHL draft. “Mario came in for a press conference, and [Pens CEO] Paul Martha came to the door of my office and said, ‘Mario’s coming in with his
agent tonight; you need to go pick him up at the airport.’ So I drove out there and they came to the front of the air- port, and Mario got in the back with his Dad and his agent, and he was sitting in the middle. There were three of them and I’m telling them, wait until you see this view when we come through the tunnels. And he’s nodding his head, not saying much, because he could speak very little English.
“I’m sitting in the front seat, turning and looking at these three guys sitting across the back seat. And we go through the tunnel and Mario’s eyes lit up. Looking back on it, he looked like a prince—he had a royalty about him. And it was like he was seeing his kingdom for the first time. And he would be king; he is king, in my opinion.”
Steigerwald was the Penguins’ Marketing Director, so he continues, “It was a great thing for me to suddenly have something to sell. We knew that he was the potential savior of the franchise, right from the start. And the story unfold- ed exactly as we envisioned it. I mean, there were bumps along the way, with bankruptcies, DeBartolo wanting to move the team to Hamilton—a lot of things went on during that time. But it was all worth it in the end.”
44 mtl • january/february 2011