Life With Lange
I want to say the year was 1980 when my Grand-father was watching me at my house (I was 6) and he turned on a Pittsburgh Penguins game, and I still can remember a goofy commercial showing former Pens player Gary Rissling smiling with his teeth missing. This was my very first introduction to hockey. I barely remember anything from my childhood but for some reason I can remember this night.
Growing up a Pittsburgh Penguins fan has been a spoiled honor witnessing the best hockey players in the world over a 35–40-year stretch. Mario Lemieux drafted first overall in 1984 changed our city, and made us a 3-sport town. Lemieux, minus his history of injuries and sicknesses may very well have been the best player to ever play the game. You add in some of the other stars who played here: Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens, Mark Recchi, Paul Coffey, Luc Robitaille, Larry Murphy, Ron Francis, Rick Tocchet, Brian Trottier…etc…etc. and we have had an unbelievable run. Being born in 1974 I was able to see greatness at age 10, and it still has not left us yet. Ok maybe that last part was a lie from 2001-2005 we had a rough stretch. Jagr was traded to Washington and we did not have any star power at the time. In 2004 we drafted a young Russian named Evgeni Malkin and in 2005 we drafted a future top 10 player Sidney Crosby. With all that I have mentioned about what I am thankful for as a Pens fan, there is one guy who has been here since day one.
Mike Lange first started with the Penguins the year I was born, 1974. Lange actually got let go for a year because the team wasn’t sure if they had a budget for a job, the team was in bankruptcy. Mike came back in 1976 and was here ever since. Mario Lemieux had some great wingers and linemates over the season, but in my opinion his best linemate was Mike Lange. Having a young , superstar like Mario on board was exciting, but for new hockey fans to hear the goal calls by Lange was exhilarating. Growing up in the 80’s in 90’s was about going to school the next day and copying Lange’s catch phrases. I would sit on the bus and just scream out “ Great Balls of Fire!”, or “aww scratch my back with a hacksaw”
I used to go to bed during the later games and have my Walkman (young kids look that term up) on so I could hear the calls when the Pens scored. Mr. Lange always had a way of making you smile twice, once for the goal and once for the call. We as 40–60-year old’s have been very lucky with our announcers in this town as well. From Lanny Frattare, Bill Hillgrove, Myron Cope, and now Greg Brown we are presented games the right way. Mr. Lange you have been here since I was born, and I feel the same sadness now as I did the last time Mario laced up his skates for the last time.
Mike Lange was more than an announcer; he was a part of my life.