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Cup chronicles: Troy Loney

Troy Loney knows all about Bill Buckner, the Boston Red Sox first baseman who ended up the scapegoat when the Mets won the 1986 World Series after his botched play.

Loney believed he might become the Pittsburgh equivalent after he took a five-minute major for high-sticking Minnesota defenseman Mark Tinordi in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I just kept thinking, ‘Oh my goodness,’ ” Loney said recently. ” ‘If they come back and they beat us, it’s going to be looked on as Loney’s the guy who blew it for the Penguins. Hey honey, we’ve got to move.’ ”

But the Penguins used an inspired penalty kill, holding the North Stars without a shot on that penalty kill en route to tying the series, 2-2.

Loney views that as a solidifying moment for the Penguins — much like Frank Pietrangelo’s save against New Jersey in Game 6 of the Patrick Division semifinals.

“We were just a team that would always have somebody step up or do the right thing at the right time,” Loney said.

Loney missed the first 30 games of the regular season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right knee, but that didn’t hold him back when he returned to the Penguins’ checking line.

“I wasn’t a guy that was going out looking for some trouble. If trouble was there, I was happy to be around,” he said. “But my role from Bob (Johnson) was be aggressive, forecheck hard and play very strong in your own end, and you’re the guy when we’re late in the game on the boards on the left side. That was what my role was. So I knew when we were down, I wasn’t going to be out there, and I knew that when we were up, I’d be out there.”

Troy Loney ON Stanley Cup Final, his contract situation, Bob Johnson

On his contract situation that season: I was just caught up in a wave of a lot of good, young guys who were free agents. I think the same year, (Kevin) Stevens, (Mark) Recchi and (John) Cullen, they all came due for contracts at the same time, and my request was actually right in line with where I fit in the league, and I knew that was just a business deal where it was like, if we give you this, these guys are going to look at us and go, ‘Well, I’m asking for what’s in line.’ But the difference between the money I was looking to be in line with the guys that were my peer group versus some of those guys with their stats was a big dollar difference. There’s really no hard feelings. It’s just part of the business of hockey, and the Penguins weren’t personal. They were professional, but they weren’t personal at the arbitration hearing. But in the end, the arbitrator — the rules of arbitration in those days weren’t great — and the arbitrator took five or six months to render a decision, and all he did was split the difference. It took him that long to divide by two, I guess.c

On the atmosphere under coach Bob Johnson: It was such a change. In my tenure with the Penguins, I had a lot of different coaches. I think I counted it up one day, and it might have been eight. None had that positive attitude that Bob brought to everything. He was such a positive person. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t playing consistent, we weren’t playing very well and Bob would always find the positive things to reinforce, you know, lose 5-1 but boy, look at this one great play that I found on the tapes, that kind of stuff. Just a genuine, positive coach, which was so unique for all of us because in those days, that wasn’t the standard kind of coaching philosophy. It was such a refreshing approach to the game. And we were a good team. We just had to have some people come together to do it. Bob was very good at encouraging, really strong in teaching and also defined roles really well. He had everybody in their roles, so when a situation comes up, this is your role, you’re my guy. He was true to his word when those situations came up in games. I had a lot of respect for him as a coach, and more so, as a man.

On Bob Johnson’s definition of roles: Not to say that everybody liked that they only had a certain role. Kevin Stevens was always pretty vocal about getting pulled off in defensive situations. I think the thing that made our team successful was everybody knew their role, everyone accepted their role, and we all knew that if we did our roles well, we would win.

On the team’s chemistry: We were definitely a tight-knit group on the ice; we did support each other a lot. We weren’t really defaulting to one or two guys to do that much fighting for the team. We had a good mixture of skill, of skill/aggressive guys, aggressive guys, good defenders, and I can’t think of anybody that was ever, you always think in your mind there’s usually one or two guys that you go, well, that guy’s really not going to stand up for himself, let alone anybody else. We didn’t have that kind of guy anywhere on our team.

On the trades made that season: (Larry) Murphy had been around a few teams, came in and he’s tremendous. He’s a much better defender than I think I had realized. He was a very good defenseman. (Peter) Taglianetti played his role perfectly. Him and (Grant) Jennings kind of had the same type of role. Ron Francis, the ultimate professional, comes in to play and Ulfie (Samuelsson) plays the same way, it doesn’t matter what team he’s on, just go and hit guys and cause a bunch of problems. So, the mixture again, I think because we were all so close in age there. If you look at that team, there had to have been 15 of us that had to be within three years of each other, very close in age. We were all right around the same age. I don’t know how many kids we had, how many young kids we had, but we had a heck of a lot of young kids either being born or 2-year-olds, 4-year-olds when we all got together. So all going through the same kind of life experiences together on a good team. What Bob (Johnson) did, he instilled the abilities for us to be positive and believe in ourselves. Once that happened, we just started to roll.

On his goal in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final vs. the North Stars: I remember it was at home. It was (Larry) Murphy and I, I think it was almost a two-on-one, and I just took off to the net. I played with Murph enough to know that he probably wasn’t going to pass it over to me, so I just went to the net hard. In those days you could go around the net a lot more than you can now and I remember the puck was shot on net, the D kind of pushed me and I just went with the push, and I’m in the net, the puck’s in the net, the light’s on. And I’m getting out of there. Everyone asks ‘Did you touch it?’ — I have no clue. But I do know this: If I don’t go into the goalie, I’m not sure that’s going into the net. The crowd was so loud. The adrenaline rush you get from scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs at home, it still brings the hair up on the back of my neck.

On Minnesota’s planned celebrations, before the Cup was decided: That’s the old story. You don’t ever give anybody any fuel, right• That was a lot of fuel. I think we were down, 2-1, at that point, and we pick up the morning paper. You’re in a hotel, we’re all going to read the paper and this stuff was in there talking about parade routes. That just made everybody go, OK, all right. It gave us more incentive. But I could tell you what I do remember very vividly, our morning skate the day we clinched in Minnesota, there was like a nervousness on our team, like a nervous excitedness on our team that I had never felt before. And it was good. I remember having a conversation with Joey Mullen after the skate. I said, ‘Joey, you feel it?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, we are going to smoke ’em. You feel it, too?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah.’ And we were unbelievable in that last game.

On realizing the Penguins would win the Cup: The clock just doesn’t seem to be clicking along quick enough, because this thing was over, and we just wanted it to be done. But I do remember the last few seconds on the bench, the first time we went through winning the Cup, it was very focused, at least I was really, really focused. I did not necessarily take in as much around me that was going on about the Stanley Cup Final — the crowd, you heard the crowd, but the added things like the press, more and more press as you started to win more, enjoying that. It was more focused on work so the last half of the third (period) was really a time to just kind of soak in what was going to happen, so that was kind of nice. Jumping on the ice, Badger Bob, I remember looking at him behind the bench, it was a special moment.

On lifting the Cup: My parents were there. It was just such a tremendous feeling. As a kid, every time you’re playing hockey with your buddies or bubble hockey or whatever it is, it’s always winning the Cup and just dreaming about lifting it up over your head. It was so surreal. When you’re in it, it’s like you’re not even there. It seems like I only had it for two seconds, but it was just one of those boyhood dreams.

Additional Information:

Troy Loney

Acquired: June 9, 1982 — Third-round draft pick (52nd overall)

Penguins debut: Dec. 1, 1983, vs. Minnesota

Penguins 1990-91 stats: 44 games, 7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points, 85 PIM

Penguins career stats: 532 games, 69 goals, 100 assists, 169 points, 980 PIM

What he’s up to now: Head of sales for Catalyst Rx, a pharmacy benefit management company


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