In the days leading up to the free agency period, one of the biggest hockey stories in Pittsburgh wasn't so much who the team would sign on July 1st, as much as who wouldn't be back in the broadcast booth for them. The local TV rights for the Pittsburgh Penguins are held by Fox Sports Pittsburgh, they also decide who the play by play/color commentator is going to be and they shocked the area by not re-signing Hall of Fame announcer Mike Lange.
For many in Pittsburgh, most of their Penguin memories and favorite moments go hand and hand with memories of Mike Lange. Lange, who is known across the hockey world, for his colorful goal calls brought something to the table that just wasn't always there with your run of the mill announcer. Mike Lange had a way of making every goal feel like it was special. His calls always suited the player. If Mario Lemieux would cash in, he had a certain clean delivery signifying a beautiful goal by some one you expect to score, and if a mucker and grinder such as Phil Bourque would score he had this guttural bark in the way he delivered the players name.
In situations where something shocking would happen, Lange may have been "Cow Kicked." If a player just broke a long scoring drought, he was "Smiling like a butcher's dog." He was always willing to "Buy Sam a drink and get his dog one too" or to "Hunt Moose on a Harley." You were always able to tell when the Penguins had chalked up another victory, because "Elvis had just left the building." He also had a word for the senior citizens of the area: "Get in the fast lane grandma, the bingo game is ready to roll."
He always brought some of Pittsburgh to the Penguins and whoever was watching the game, as evidenced by how he quickly nicknamed Joey Mullen: Slippery Rock Joe and "Called Arnold Slick from Turtle Crick!" He always mentioned the Parkway, or picking pockets on 5th Avenue.
Mike Lange made it tough for me to watch just any other hockey game. I just couldn't bear to listen to other announcers, of course I learned to accept them, but it wasn't like Mike. There have been times in the past where the team had gone other directions with the announcing teams, but ultimately it always came back to Mike Lange, who was as much a part of the team as the players. I will never forget the first time I heard him yell out: "The Penguins have won the Stanley Cup" or a year later when he bellowed "Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, give me the Brandy."
He would begin each broadcast, home or away, with: "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh!" Not hearing that will be sorely missed and to some extent, it just won't feel like a hockey night. At least not the same as it has for the last 30 years. Mike Lange has been in the booth longer than I have been able to comprehend the game and was an integral part of my falling in love with the game over the past 23 years
Former Penguin coach Bob Johnson, once said "It's a great day for hockey," well Pittsburgh and it's fans will always remember June 30, 2006 as a sad day for the game. Mike Lange has been offered the Radio job by the team, since they hold the rights to the broadcasts, but he has not made any decision as of yet. Lange's long time partner and current radio play by play man, Paul Steigerwald, will take over the television duties.
Thanks for the memories Mike Lange! You will be missed by Penguin fans everywhere....hope to hear you in the future.
To voice an opinion on this decision, email this man. Steve Tello, GM over at Fox Sports Pittsburgh: firstname.lastname@example.org