July 22, 2005 is a day that forever be etched in Pittsburgh Penguins history as a day that changed the face of the franchise...and quite possibly saved it. Late in the afternoon that day was the NHL Draft Lottery and when Pittsburgh won it, the ticket sales office phones in Mellon Arena lit up like Christmas trees. The new savior was arriving. When Gary Bettman announced that the Pens had won, I fell off my couch in exhilaration and bruised my shoulder. I didn't feel or notice the bruise for a few days, I was excited about hockey again.
I watched the entire press conference from a far at my old job. I couldn't get too close to the television as I didn't want to believe it true. I knew he wasn't the same 66 as he used to be, but I knew this wouldn't be like 1997. This was the final retirement. I had just seen Lemieux play a few weeks prior in New York against the Rangers. Had I known it'd be the last time I would have seen him play, I may have enjoyed the experience a little differently.