Corrections and also clarifications: A previous version of this story misidentified Andy Bathgate"s team.

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PITTSBURGH – when Jack McGregor was awarded the Pittsburgh NHL franchise in 1966 together its very first owner, his then-wife Carol McGregor come up v the surname “Penguins” due to the fact that she thought about it a perfect fit because that a sport linked with wintry conditions.


“She liked the alliteration, the 2 Ps, Pittsburgh Penguins, like the Pittsburgh Pirates,” McGregor told USA today Sports. “She believed it make sense due to the fact that Penguins lived on snow and ice.”

But when McGregor notified his basic manager Jack Riley and coach Red Sullivan about what the growth team would certainly be called, they no share the McGregors’ enthusiasm.


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“Riley said, "We will be laughed the end of town," " McGregor said. “He said, ‘Penguins waddle. They space knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, weak ankles, flat-footed. ... That was really unhappy.”

This season, the Penguins commemorated their 50th anniversary through their sixth expedition to the Stanley Cup Final. The series with the Nashville Predators is 2-2 heading into Thursday"s game 5.

Because that their national appeal, the Penguins are regarded as one of the NHL’s compensation franchises. As McGregor, 83, adheres to their progress, it’s hard for him come fathom it’s the very same team he created when he was a 31-year-old state senator and also lawyer.

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He had actually never viewed an NHL video game when he introduced his initiative to lug a team come Pittsburgh. In ~ the time, he was aggressively connected in a activity to revitalize Pittsburgh.


“I thought a significant league hockey team would add to the momentum of the come back of Pittsburgh,” McGregor said.

McGregor began pursuing the expansion team in the summer of 1965, and also by climate Baltimore and Buffalo had actually a head begin in the race for the final Eastern Conference spot. McGregor recalled the NHL plan was to add two teams in the East, two in the Midwest and also two the end West. Philadelphia already seemed to have one that the east spots locked up.


After 5 months of extreme lobbying, McGregor claimed he still needed an assist from Pittsburgh Steelers founder art Rooney to win the franchise.

Rooney supported McGregor politically, and also he was likewise friends with Jim Norris, that owned the Chicago Blackhawks, and his brothers Bruce Norris, who owned the Detroit Red Wings. McGregor stated those 2 owners to be the swing votes that would certainly decide the second Eastern team.

Rooney do a contact on McGregor’s behalf. “He stated to Jim Norris, ‘It would be a personal insult to me if you select Buffalo end Pittsburgh.’ ”

The NHL awarded the franchise come Pittsburgh because that $2 million. By comparison, the Vegas gold Knights recently paid $500 million to sign up with the NHL together its 31st team. To acquire the team, McGregor had to sway city officials to increase the seating capacity of the public Arena indigenous 8,500 come 12,500.

Pittsburgh already had a hockey tradition due to the fact that the Pittsburgh Hornets had been play in the American League. McGregor stated the Penguins’ name did record on v fans.

“Most the the Hornet season ticket holders favored the extension of the Hornets name,” McGregor said. “But ns flatly refuse to execute that due to the fact that I didn’t think it to be the appropriate signal to send. This is the national Hockey League, it’s a various brand that hockey. Us don’t desire a minor league name.”

McGregor want to do a splash in ~ the expansion draft and he did once the Penguins supplied their 19th pick to seize Detroit Red wings forward Andy Bathgate.

“He was in his twilight years, and left unprotected,” McGregor said. “When ns said, ‘Let’s go for Bathgate," Riley said, ‘But that will price too much money." ns said, ‘Let me worry around the money.""

In their very first season, the Penguins to let go the playoffs through a single point. ~ owning the team for 4 years, McGregor feel compelled to sell due to the fact that his law firm needed him to relocate to Washington D.C.


The one remorse he has is that he no retain a percentage as soon as he marketed it come Donald Parsons. “I think if asked to retain 2 percent the the team, i think lock would have agreed,” McGregor said. “I’ve watched the team valued in ~ $600 million. I would have actually made an ext than a pretty penny.”

He said he never ever would have actually guessed that the Penguins would someday consistently sell the end an arena the holds 18,387. But it took years for it to record on.

The team’s battle to gain fans was the source of among McGregor’s favorite story from the an initial year.

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McGregor and also team executives were all in the office because that a Saturday employee meeting when the phone call ring. GM Riley answered the phone. A lady asked him if the Penguins were play that night. He notified her the Penguins were undoubtedly scheduled come play.

“She asked, ‘what time go the game start?" ” McGregor said. “And Riley said, ‘what time deserve to you obtain here?’ It to be the finest line to explain our attendance struggles.”