• Image of "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh" tee
  • Image of "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh" tee
  • Image of "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh" tee

These designs could have easily equaled multiple tees, but during the process, it became apparent that they needed to be combined. Reason being…Mike Lange and The Igloo are synonymous with Pittsburgh hockey. Both have been there since the beginning, both are still apparent in our city, but both are now somewhat in the background. They definitely compliment each other in many ways.

Mike Lange first came to Pittsburgh as the play-by-play broadcaster ’74, seven years after the Pens arrived in the city. The Pens struggled immensely in those early years, and by the end of the 7th season, the team was in bankruptcy, and with no guarantee of a job, Lange moved on to Washington to call soccer games. The Pens obviously survived, and Large subsequently returned in ’76, staying as the enigmatic play-by-play man for Pens radio and TV, until an unpopular move by Fox Sports in 2006. On June 29th, Fox did not exercise the option year on Lange’s contract, and stated that they would like to “go in a new direction”. The move seemed to be centered on internal spite by FSN, because of the shear senselessness of it. Lange was a cornerstone of Pens hockey, and recognized around the league as a lead figure in the world of sports broadcasting, receiving the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his outstanding work as an NHL broadcaster in ’01. The Pen’s radio broadcaster, John Steigerwald, took over for Mike on FSN broadcasts. Steigy was gracious in his acceptance of the job, stating, “I’m not going to try to replace him. I think he is irreplaceable.”
Lange begins each broadcast by stating, “It’s a hockey night in Pittsburgh”. But more recognizable is his claim to national fame, which are his post-goal expressions, which you see on the back of the shirt. It was insanely hard to pick my favorites from the plethora of cryptic and unique, yet brilliant and hilarious expressions.
Mike’s credits also include a major motion picture in ’95, where he appeared in the Pittsburgh/Civic Arena based, Jean-Claude Van Damme movie “Sudden Death”, playing himself. Steigerwald sat along side Mike in the booth, also playing himself. The movie was shot in and around The Igloo during the NHL strike year of ’94.
Strangely, the Van Damme movie might be one of the worst movies I have ever seen, but one of my favorites just because it took place in Pittsburgh. Hell, where else can you see a drug-addled over-hyped action star fight the Pen’s mascot “Iceburgh”. I might add, Iceburgh met its demise in the conveyer dishwasher, which we all will sadly admit, is how most mascots loose their lives.

The Igloo seems to be the only name that has been consistent with the building the sits at the base of the Hill District in Pittsburgh. It was coined “The Igloo” by Pittsburghers because of it’s stainless steel domed enclosure. Names, whether they were official or not, included Civic Auditorium Amphitheater, Civic Arena, The Pittsburgh Dome, Allegheny Energy Dome, and Melon Arena. “The Igloo” was almost the official name in ’92, but stayed as simply the nickname. From opening to closing, the building was only known as the “Civic Arena” and “Melon Arena”. Opening on September 19, 1961, and closing on June 26, 2010, the Civic arena was originally built for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and not hockey. The structure’s nickname also inspired the naming of the cities new NHL franchise during the great expansion of 1967. The Penguins played their first game at the Civic Arena on October 11, 1967, loosing to the Canadiens 2-1. At that time, the arena’s capacity was only 12,580, and the most expensive seat was $5.
Uniquely, the roof is divided into eight sections. Six of the sections could fold underneath two, in 2½ minutes, making the Civic Arena the world's first major indoor sports stadium with a retractable roof. Before moving to the Consol Energy Center in late 2010, the Pens played in the 3rd smallest arena in the NHL, only in front of Edmonton and Long Island.
On September 16, 2010, the Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority voted unanimously to demolish the Civic Arena. However, on November 24, 2010, the building's demolition was delayed due to a last-minute nomination as a National Historic Landmark. On January 5, 2011, the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission voted 5-1 in favor for preliminary approval of the arena's historic nomination status. The vote has paved the way for a formal hearing on the proposed designation on March 2, 2011. This narrative was coincidentally written on March 2nd, but no new information on the possible demo was available.
It should also be noted that Jean-Claude Van Damme saved the building, and the city of Pittsburgh, from homicidal terrorists in 1995.

These two Pittsburgh fixtures are as unique to hockey as they are to Pittsburgh. One of the first memories I have of pro hockey is hearing Mike Lange’s spot on play-by-play, as well as his post-goal expressions. You could also add that watching Mario, as well as back-to-back cups in the early 90’s, was a great way to introduce a young kid to a sport. During a time when the Pirates where unraveling, and the Steelers stunk, it was great to see the best player in the game in Pittsburgh a jersey, and Mike’s voice piped into Sports Center highlights. This all taking place under the steel roof of the Civic, which looked like nothing else that I had ever seen. Whether The Igloo is standing downtown or just memory like Three Rivers, or Mike is on TV or the radio, both will always conger up great memories of Pittsburgh hockey.


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