'March of the Penguins' debuts

'March of the Penguins' debuts

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On July 22, 2005, March of the Penguins, a French-made documentary about emperor penguins in Antarctica, opens in theaters across the U.S. March of the Penguins went on to win numerous awards, including an Oscar, and became one of the highest-grossing documentaries in movie history.

March of the Penguins followed the yearlong reproductive cycle of the emperor penguins and their arduous journeys between the ocean and their inland breeding grounds. Two cinematographers spent a year in isolated terrain and challenging weather conditions in order to film the penguins in their natural habitat. The penguin parents were shown caring for their unhatched eggs and young chicks. Male-female penguin couples were presented as monogamous, leading some conservative commentators to declare that March of the Penguins promoted family values. The film’s French director Luc Jaquet rejected this view. In a 2005 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, he stated: “I condemn this position. I find it intellectually dishonest to impose this viewpoint on something that’s part of nature. It’s amusing, but if you take the monogamy argument, from one season to the next, the divorce rate, if you will, is between 80 to 90 percent… the monogamy only lasts for the duration of one reproductive cycle. You have to let penguins be penguins and humans be humans.”

The American version of March of the Penguins featured straightforward narration by the Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman. However, the French version of the film, titled La Marche de l’empereur, used the voices of human actors to make it appear as if the penguins were speaking. At the 78th Academy Awards, on March 5, 2006, March of the Penguins won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

The success of March of the Penguins appeared to spark a mini-penguin craze: In November 2006, Happy Feet, an animated film about emperor penguins, opened in U.S. theaters. Happy Feet, which featured the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams and Nicole Kidman, won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 79th Academy Awards on February 25, 2007.

Happy Feet

Happy Feet is a 2006 computer-animated musical comedy film directed, produced, and co-written by George Miller. It stars the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, and E.G. Daily. An international co-production between the United States and Australia, the film was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, and Kingdom Feature Productions, and was released in North American theaters on 17 November 2006. It is the first animated film produced by Kennedy Miller and Animal Logic.

  • 17 November 2006 ( 2006-11-17 ) (United States)
  • 8 December 2006 ( 2006-12-08 ) (United Kingdom)
  • 26 December 2006 ( 2006-12-26 ) (Australia)

Though primarily an animated film, the film does incorporate motion capture of live action humans in certain scenes. The film was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format. [3] The studio had hinted that a future IMAX 3D release was a possibility. However, Warner Bros., the film's production company, was on too tight a budget to release Happy Feet in IMAX digital 3D. [4]

Happy Feet received generally positive reviews from critics, becoming the recipient of the inaugural BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, and the fourth non-Disney or Pixar film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. [5] It was nominated for the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film. A sequel, Happy Feet Two, was released on 18 November 2011.

Don’t Worry, Everyone – The Penguins Are OK In Penguin Town

Netflix docuseries Penguin Town travels to South Africa to meet some friendly penguins. none of whom are eaten (that we know of).

Photo: Netflix

Penguins are perfect. Sardine-saturated floaties with ridiculous flappers and leather toes, the flightless birds are God’s most beautiful mistake.

That’s undoubtedly why the tuxedo bois have become a fixture of nature documentaries, starring in full-length features like March of the Penguins and Disney’s Penguins. Now Netflix’s new docuseries Penguin Town, narrated by Patton Oswalt, is betting on the unshakable fact that pop culture can never have too many penguins. Penguin Town bets correctly.

“They’re incredibly clumsy because they’ve got short little legs,” Penguin Town field producer Cayley Christos says. “They’re almost like bouncing balls. They’ll walk along in a line and several of them will make the same fall and stumble, which is hysterical to watch.”

It’s never a bad time for penguins. But after the rough year that was, now might really be the time for nature’s unwitting comedians to shine. Penguin Town comes from Christos’s Red Rock Films International, and follows the titular birds as they try to make homes for themselves in South African beachfront tourist destination, Simon’s Town, which is about an hour’s drive south of Cape Town.

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“It’s a bit of an old retirement town, and the penguins showed up in about 1985. So they weren’t there when a lot of the residents built their houses and moved into the area,” Christos says.

The infrastructure of Simon’s Town has largely protected penguins from natural predators like caracals and leopards and allowed them to flourish in the urban environment. Penguin Town makes good use of that environment, delighting in the novelty of penguins waddling around people’s homes and using the benevolence of human “giants” as a deus ex machina.


Just because the penguins of Simon’s Town have found a home, however, doesn’t mean they’ve achieved total safety. Penguins, ludicrous, portly little weirdos that they are, are natural targets for agile predators on high-fat diets. Every nature documentary that covers penguins faces a choice as to whether to depict the grim realities of the food chain or to spare its viewers the prospect of a black, white, and red all over massacre. Penguin Town, thankfully, opts for the sanitized version.

“I know just from the comments I’ve seen online that nobody wants to see anything bad happen to a penguin. I think with the year we’ve all had, we need a feel-good story, and this is it,” Christos says.

Penguin Town isn’t without drama. Some birds go conspicuously missing, while others deal with a crew of penguin bullies that the doc dubs “The Car Park Gang.” But for the most part, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts in Penguin Town.

That’s partly because the documentary cast a wide net to find the most intriguing wildlife stories possible. Christos and her team started by monitoring 80 different nests across the city, then followed those nests every day for juicy penguin drama, before narrowing them down to five particularly charismatic penguin families. Patton Oswalt’s narration gives the penguin clans unique names to better keep up with them, many of which come from the filmmakers themselves.

March of the Penguins

1 of 12 Three penguin chicks waddle towards their new home during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 12 Penguin keeper Anthony Brown has to carry one penguin chick part of the way to coax two others to follow along during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 12 Three penguin chicks make their way towards their new home during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

5 of 12 Three penguin chicks waddle towards their new home during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 12 Excited visitors watch penguins swim in their pool during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. Three young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 12 Penguin keeper Anthony Brown carries one penguin chick part of the way hoping that two others to follow along during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 12 Penguin keeper Andrew Brown tries to coax three penguin chicks into the pool during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

11 of 12 Penguin keepers Andrew Brown (left) and Seth Wong try to coax three penguin chicks to join them in the pool during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. The young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins. This year, several of the eggs laid by the zoo's colony were sent to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, according spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Three penguin chicks waddled towards their new home during the annual "March of the Penguins" at the San Francisco Zoo on Tuesday. The three young chicks, born earlier this year, joined the zoo's colony, raising the population to 44 Magellenic penguins.

In ‘Surf’s Up,’ penguins again are the go-to birds

In the animated world, penguins are capable of just about anything.

In the Oscar-winning short “The Wrong Trousers,” one of the little birds was a wily, silent thief. In “Madagascar,” penguins were wisenheimers that managed to skipper a boat. In the Oscar-winning feature “Happy Feet,” they could sing like -- well, birds -- and dance like Savion Glover.

And in the new computer-animated family film “Surf’s Up,” which opens Friday, penguins are groovy surfers.

Lauren DuBois, assistant curator of birds at SeaWorld San Diego’s Penguin Encounter, believes the animals are popular because “they are not like what you would expect a bird to look like. And they do have these personalities. I think that is what draws people in.”

Their colors help too. “I think there is also something about black-and-white animals,” she says. “We have seen that in the park with our killer whales . and penguins.”

DuBois says the Oscar-winning documentary “The March of the Penguins” captured how penguins live. “When you get a chance to look at the animals, you realize how incredible these little birds are.”

Whereas the penguins in “Happy Feet” were emperor penguins, the tallest and heaviest of the species, the key characters in “Surf’s Up” -- Cody Maverick, the up-and-coming teenage surfer, and the Big Z, the washed-up surfer dude he idolizes -- are rockhoppers, a smaller, aggressive crested species. So named because they jump from rock to rock, the breed used to be hunted for its oil. The birds are now protected.

Though Cody and his film flock hail from Antarctica, Dubois says such birds are actually found in islands off South America.

DuBois believes films like “Surf’s Up,” “Happy Feet” and “March of the Penguins” have helped immeasurably in educating audiences. “The more we learn, the more we can pass on to our children,” she says.

It works the other way too. “I find, actually, the kids who come to see these movies take that information and pass it on to their parents,” DuBois says. “And their parents become more aware of things that are going on in the environment.”

March Of The Penguins: A Look Into Pittsburgh's Hockey History

On the heels of their third Eastern Conference championship in franchise history, let's take a look at the Penguins' history in the city of Pittsburgh.

October 11, 1967 - As part of the Great Expansion of 1967, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was granted one of six new NHL expansion teams. Pittsburgh's first season opened with a 2-1 loss at the Civic Centre to the Montreal Canadiens.

October 13, 1967 - Pittsburgh's first win can at the expense of their fellow expansion team from St. Louis, as the Penguins defeated the Blues 3-1.

At the end of the '67 season, the Penguins finished in fifth place with a 27-34-13 record, and missed the playoffs by a mere two points in their inaugural season.

The Penguins were led by veteran Andy Bathgate, who led the team in scoring. Alongside Bathgate was tough defenseman Leo Boivin. The rest of the team was made up of mostly former minor league players.

In baby blue jerseys with a little penguin on the front, the Penguins played through the few first rough years of expansion. Through the Penguins first seven seasons, they would miss the playoffs five times. Pittsburgh's talent pool was very thin, aside from stalwart players such as goalie Les Binkley and forward Keith McCreary.

To start the 1970s, the Penguins had a bright future, with a promising rookie centre named Michel Briere. Briere scored 12 goals and 32 assists in 76 games in his rookie campaign. Tragedy struck, however, as Briere was injured in a car crash and died a year later. His No. 21 hangs in the rafters as the first number to be retired by the club.

In 1970, the Penguins reached the playoffs for the first time, where they would eventually lose to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Finals. Aside from a playoff berth in 1972, the Penguins were annual combatants with the California Golden Seals for the division cellar.

Pittsburgh began to ice very competitive teams in the mid-seventies. The line of Syl Apps Jr., Jean Pronovost, and Lowell MacDonald—also known as the "Century Line"—led a potent offense. In 1975, the Penguins came close to the Stanley Cup semifinals, going up 3-0 in the series before being ousted by the New York Islanders. It was one of only three times in NHL history when a team came back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

Other big names in the seventies included Pierre Larouche, Ron Schock, and Ron Stackhouse. Goaltender Dennis Herron was great in goal for the Penguins during the seventies, yet the Penguins always dwindled in the postseason despite regular season success.

In 1975, the team was forced in bankruptcy and almost folded from the league. However, a group led by Wren Blair prevented the team from folding and the team stayed in Pittsburgh.

Leading into the 1980s, former coach and general manager of the AHL Hornets Baz Bastien took the reins as general manager, and the Penguins began a decline. Bastien signed players such as Rich MacLeish and other players who had already played their best years.

In the 1979 playoffs, the Penguins had a rousing first-round victory over the Buffalo Sabres, before a second-round exit via the Boston Bruins.

January 1980 began a new era for the Penguins, as they adopted their present-day black and gold jerseys, which were also the colours of the NFL Steelers and MLB Pirates. Despite a change in colour, the Penguins still floundered, despite having impact players such as Randy Carlyle and Mike Bullard.

During the early 80s, the Penguins were always the playoff underdogs giving the higher-seeded teams more than they could handle. In 1980, the 13th seeded Penguins took the Bruins to the limit. In 1981, the 15th seeded Penguins took the St. Louis Blues to the brink. In 1982, the Penguins took the reigning Stanley Cup champions to the brink, losing the decisive Game Five in overtime. Pittsburgh would not make the playoffs again until 1989.

In 1983 and 1984, the Penguins struggles almost forced the team to fold once again. Yet, for their bad fortunes, the Penguins received the top pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. With that pick, the face and fortune of the team was reversed as their chose a French Canadian phenom named Mario Lemieux.

Lemieux paid dividends right away, scoring a goal on his first shot during his first shift. Lemieux would scored 43 goals and 57 assists for 100 points in his rookie campaign. As the Penguins progressed through the 1980s, they improved with trades to acquire smooth-skating Paul Coffey after the Edmonton Oiler's 1987 Stanley Cup win. Along with Coffey, the Penguins brought youth in with Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown, and John Cullen.

In 1988, the Penguins acquired former Calder and Vezina Tropy winner Tom Barrasso from the Buffalo Sabres, giving the Penguins solid goaltending. The year after, Pittsburgh made the playoffs—yet were eliminated via their cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. Lemieux amassed 123 points that season, even with missing 21 games in the 1989-90 season.

During the 1989 season, the Penguins hired general manager Craig Patrick to lead the team and continue building the Penguins.

Patrick continued to build a dynasty with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft choosing Czech-born Jaromir Jagr, who became the first Eastern European player to be selected without having defected from his home country.

Along with Jagr, rookie Mark Recchi came up and scored 67 points in his rookie campaign and 113 points in 1990-91. Pittsburgh also signed veteran Bryan Trottier as a free agent. Joe Mullen was dealt in a minor trade that netted Larry Murphy from the Minnesota North Stars, and Ulf Samuelsson and Ron Francis from the Hartford Whalers.

A high-scoring 1990-91 season gave the Penguins 41 wins, 33 losses, and six ties for 88 points. Pittsburgh would take out the New Jersey Devils in seven games, after being down in that series 3-2. Pittsburgh would go on to take out the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins handily.

In the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, Pittsburgh dominated the Minnesota North Stars in Games Four through Six, outscoring the Stars 19-7 in those games to take their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Mario Lemieux captured the Conn Smythe Trophy with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 23 playoff games.

The following season, the Penguins were dealt a blow when coach Bob Johnson was lost to cancer. Pittsburgh managed to get legendary coach Scotty Bowman to step in for Johnson and lead the Penguins to another championship in 1992, as they swept the Chicago Blackhawks.

In 1993, cancer almost dealt the Penguins another blow, as Lemieux missed 24 games. Yet, Lemieux still captured the Art Ross Trophy with 160 points. In the 1992-93 season, Pittsburgh captured its first President's Trophy with a 56-21-7 record, winning an NHL-record 17-straight games before tying the Devils on the last day of the regular season.

Despite their impressive season, the Penguins were denied their third Stanley Cup championship by the New York Islanders, in overtime in Game Seven of the semifinals.

Though the glory days were a thing of the past, the Penguins were always at the top of the standings. Success followed the Penguins as they drafted and traded well, acquiring stars such as Alex Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Robert Lang, Petr Nedved, Kevin Hatcher, and Darius Kaspiritis.

In 1997, Lemieux retired for the first time. After Lemieux's retirement, Jaromir Jagr came out from Lemieux's shadow to win four consecutive scoring titles.

Despite the Penguins on-ice successes in the 1990s, the team was once again in financial troubles. In 1998, the Penguins filed bankruptcy yet again, due to former players deferring their salaries. Once again, Mario Lemieux stepped in to save the franchise, purchasing the Penguins.

As the 21st century opened, Mario Lemieux came out of retirement to the shock of the hockey world. He would become the first player-owner in NHL history. Despite a rousing return from Lemieux and a spirited and deep run in the playoffs, the Penguins lost to the Devils in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals.

Financial troubles continued to haunt Pittsburgh, as they had to deal players such as Jagr to Washington and Kovalev to New York. The Penguins began a decline to the NHL basement as they missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

Despite having the top pick in the 2003 Entry Draft (with which they selected goalie Marc-Andre Fleury), the Penguins continued to be the cellar dweller of the league, having to deal Martin Straka to Los Angeles and playing without superstar Mario Lemieux due to injury. The Penguins finished last in the 2003-04 season, yet lost the draft lottery to the Washington Capitals, who would select Alexander Ovechkin.

As a small-market team, the Penguins always seemed to suffer. It showed in their average attendance during the 2003-04 season—11,877 fans per game.

By 2005, the Penguins franchise had finally paid off all its debts and loans.

Then, the turn began to happen. The Penguins won the 2005 draft lottery, and selected Sidney Crosby. With the lockout ending in a collective bargaining agreement, the Penguins went forward, signing big names Sergei Gonchar, Zigmund Pallfy, and John Leclair, and trading for goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

Lemieux announced his final retirement, finishing seventh on the all-time scoring list with 1,723 points, eighth in goals with 690, tenth in assists with 1,033 and the second-highest career points per game with 1.88, second only to Wayne Gretzky's 1.92.

After Lemieux's retirement, the Penguins became Crosby's team. Crosby would go on to become the youngest rookie to score 100+ points.

After winning the two Stanley Cups and five division titles, the Penguins decided to not renew GM Craig Patrick's contract in 2006. Ray Shero was hired as the new Pittsburgh GM. Shero then took Evgeni Malkin in the 2006 draft. Malkin would pay immediate dividends by setting a record by scoring a goal in each of his first six games.

To further build the Penguins, Shero brought in veteran leadership in Gary Roberts from the Florida Panthers and grit in George Laraque from the Phoenix Coyotes. Up-and-coming stars such as Jordan Staal also began to pay dividends.

Pittsburgh would make the playoffs in 2007 for the first time since 2002, yet would be eliminated by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Ottawa Senators.

With a potent offense led by Crosby, Malkin, and Staal and a strong defense led by Gonchar, Whitney, and Orpik, the Penguins came into 2007-08 as a heavy favourite to win the Cup.

The Penguins would add the final piece in their team as the dealt for sniper Marian Hossa for their playoff run. The Penguins ran through the playoffs, sweeping the Senators this time around and taking out the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers both in five games.


Early years (1967–1984)

Before the Penguins, Pittsburgh had been the home of the NHL's Pittsburgh Pirates from 1925 to 1930 and of the American Hockey League Pittsburgh Hornets franchise from 1936 to 1967 (with a short break from 1956 to 1961). In the spring of 1965, Jack McGregor, a state senator from Kittanning, Pennsylvania, began lobbying campaign contributors and community leaders to bring an NHL franchise back to Pittsburgh. The group focused on leveraging the NHL as an urban renewal tool for Pittsburgh. The senator formed a group of local investors that included H. J. Heinz Company heir H. J. Heinz III, Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Art Rooney and the Mellon family's Richard Mellon Scaife. The projected league expansion depended on securing votes from the then-current NHL owners to ensure Pittsburgh would be selected as one of the expansion cities, McGregor enlisted Rooney to petition votes from James D. Norris, owner of the Chicago Black Hawks and his brother Bruce Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings. The effort was successful, and on February 8, 1966, the National Hockey League awarded an expansion team to Pittsburgh for the 1967–68 season. The Penguins paid $2.5 million ($20.2 million today) for their entry and $750,000 ($5.8 million today) more for start-up costs. The Civic Arena's capacity was boosted from 10,732 to 12,500 to meet the NHL requirements for expansion. The Pens also paid an indemnification bill to settle with the Detroit Red Wings, which owned the Pittsburgh Hornets franchise. The investor group named McGregor president and chief executive officer, and he represented Pittsburgh on the NHL's Board of Governors. [4] [5]

A contest was held where 700 of 26,000 entries picked "Penguins" as the team's nickname, sharing its nickname with the athletic department of the newly named Youngstown State University in nearby Youngstown, Ohio. (Youngstown is part of the Penguins' territorial rights to this day, though they did briefly share them with the Cleveland Barons in the mid-970s.) Mark Peters had the winning entry (which was inspired because the team was to play in the "Igloo", the nickname of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena), [6] [7] a logo was chosen that had a penguin in front of a triangle, which symbolized the "Golden Triangle" of downtown Pittsburgh. [6] [8] The Penguins' first general manager, Jack Riley, opened the first pre-season camp for the franchise in Brantford, Ontario, [9] on September 13, 1967, playing the franchise's first exhibition match in Brantford against the Philadelphia Flyers on September 23, 1967. Restrictive rules which kept most major talent with the existing "Original Six" teams hampered the Pens, along with the rest of the expansion teams. Beyond aging sniper Andy Bathgate, all-star defenseman Leo Boivin (who had begun his professional career with the Hornets) and New York Rangers' veteran Earl Ingarfield, a cast of former minor leaguers largely manned the first Penguins' team. Several players played for the Hornets the previous season: Bathgate, wingers Val Fonteyne and Ab McDonald, and goaltenders Hank Bassen and Joe Daley. George Sullivan was named the head coach for the club's first two seasons, and McDonald was named the team's first captain. [10]

On October 11, 1967, league president Clarence Campbell and McGregor jointly dropped the ceremonial first puck of the Penguins' opening home game against the Montreal Canadiens. [4] On October 21, 1967, they became the first team from the expansion class to defeat an Original Six team, as they defeated the Chicago Black Hawks 4–2. However, the Penguins went 27–34–13 and finished in fifth place in the West Division, missing the playoffs and ending with the third-worst record in the league. The team's best player proved to be longtime Cleveland Barons AHL goaltender Les Binkley, who recorded a 2.88 goals-against average and was second in the league with six shutouts. Defensive winger Ken Schinkel won the team's sole league honor, being named to represent the Penguins in the NHL All-Star Game. Bathgate led the team in scoring with 59 points but retired at season's end. McDonald, who led the team in goals and was second in team scoring, was also gone at season's end, traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for center Lou Angotti. [5]

The next season, 1968–69 saw the team slip in the standings amid a sharp drop in form by Binkley, into sixth place and with the league's worst record. Several changes were made to improve the team, resulting in Boivin and several others being traded, and new players—including longtime future Pens star Jean Pronovost—making their debuts. No captain was named to replace McDonald the team went with four alternate captains.

Triumph of playoff berths and tragedy of Briere (1969–1974)

In the 1969 draft the Penguins selected Michel Briere who, although being chosen 26th, was soon drawing comparisons to Phil Esposito and Bobby Clarke. Joining the team in November, he finished as the second-place rookie scorer in the NHL (behind Bobby Clarke) with 44 points (57th overall), and third on the Penguins. Briere placed second in Calder Memorial Trophy voting for Rookie of the Year honors behind Chicago goaltender Tony Esposito. Briere led Pittsburgh to its first NHL playoff berth since the 1928 Pirates. The Penguins defeated the Oakland Seals in a four-game sweep in the quarterfinals, with Briere scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime. In the semi-final round, defending conference champions St. Louis Blues got the best of the Penguins during six games. Briere led the team in playoff scoring, recording five goals (including three game-winners) and eight points. Tragedy struck the Penguins just days after their playoff heroics. On May 15, 1970, Briere was in a car crash in his native Quebec, suffering brain trauma and slipping into a coma from which he would never recover he died a year later. His number 21 jersey was never reissued, remaining out of circulation until it was formally retired in 2001. [5]

In the 1970–71 season, the Penguins finished five games out of the playoffs with a 21–37–20 record, the fourth-worst record in the league. Pittsburgh achieved a playoff berth in 1972, only to be swept by the Chicago Black Hawks in the first round. Except for a handful of players like Ken Schinkel, Pronovost, Syl Apps Jr., Keith McCreary, agitator Bryan Watson and goaltender Les Binkley, talent was thin, but enough for the Penguins to reach the playoffs in both 1970 and 1972. The Penguins battled the California Golden Seals for the division cellar in 1974, when Riley was fired as general manager and replaced by Jack Button. Button obtained Steve Durbano, Ab DeMarco, Bob "Battleship" Kelly and Bob Paradise through trades. The personnel moves proved successful, and the team improved to a 28–41–9 record, although they remained nine points away from a playoff berth.

However, in early 1975, the Penguins' creditors demanded payment of back debts, forcing the team into bankruptcy. The doors to the team's offices were padlocked, and it looked like the Penguins would fold or relocate. [11] Around the same time, rumors began circulating that the Penguins and the California Golden Seals were to be relocated to Seattle and Denver respectively, the two cities that were to have been the sites of an expansion for the 1976–77 season. [12] Through the intervention of a group that included former Minnesota North Stars head coach Wren Blair, the team was prevented from folding and remained in Pittsburgh, eventually being bought by shopping mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.

Playoff runs and a uniform change (1974–1982)

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Pittsburgh iced some powerful offensive clubs, led by the likes of the "Century Line" of Syl Apps, Lowell MacDonald and Jean Pronovost. They nearly reached the Stanley Cup semi-finals in 1975, but were ousted from the playoffs by the New York Islanders in one of the only four best-of-seven-game series in NHL history where a team came back from being down three games to none. As the 1970s wore on, a mediocre team defense neutralized the Penguins' success beyond the regular season. Baz Bastien, a former coach and general manager of the AHL's Hornets, later became general manager. The Penguins missed the playoffs in 1977–78. Bastien traded prime draft picks for several players whose best years were already behind them, and the team would suffer in the early 1980s as a result. The decade closed with a playoff appearance in 1979 and a rousing opening series win over the Buffalo Sabres before a second-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins. [5]

The Penguins began the 1980s by changing their team colors in January 1980, the team switched from wearing blue and white to their present-day scheme of black and gold to honor Pittsburgh's other sports teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Flag of Pittsburgh. Both the Pirates and Steelers had worn black and gold for decades, and both had enjoyed world championship seasons. The Bruins protested this color change, claiming a monopoly on black and gold, but the Penguins defended their choice stating that the NHL Pirates also used black and gold as their team colors and that black and gold were Pittsburgh's traditional sporting colors. The NHL agreed, and Pittsburgh could use black and gold. The Penguins officially debuted the black and gold uniform in a game against the St. Louis Blues at the Civic Arena on January 30, 1980. [13] On the ice, the Penguins began the 1980s with defenseman Randy Carlyle, and prolific scorers Paul Gardner and Mike Bullard but little else.

During the early part of the decade, the Penguins made a habit of being a tough draw for higher-seeded opponents in the playoffs. In 1980, the 13th-seeded Penguins took the Bruins to the limit in their first-round playoff series. The following season, as the 15th seed, they lost the decisive game of their first-round series in overtime to the heavily favored St. Louis Blues. Then, in the 1982 playoffs, the Penguins held a 3–1 lead late in the fifth and final game of their playoff series against the reigning champions, the New York Islanders. However, the Islanders rallied to force overtime and won the series on a goal by John Tonelli. It would be the Pens' final playoff appearance until 1989. [ citation needed ]

Lemieux–Jagr era (1984–2005)

The team had the league's worst record in both the 1983 and 1984 seasons. With the team suffering financial problems, it seemed the Penguins would either fold or relocate. Mario Lemieux, one of the most highly touted NHL draft picks in history, was due to be drafted in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. Heading towards the end of the season ahead of the New Jersey Devils, who were placed last, the Penguins made several questionable moves that appeared to weaken the team in the short term. They posted three six-game winless streaks in the last 21 games of the season and earned the right to draft Lemieux amidst protests from Devils' management. [14] Pittsburgh head coach Lou Angotti later admitted that a conscious decision was made to finish the season as the team with the worst record, saying in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that a mid-season lunch prompted the plan, because there was a high chance of the franchise folding if Lemieux was not drafted. [15] Other teams offered substantial trade packages for the draft choice, but the Penguins kept the pick and drafted Lemieux first overall. Lemieux paid dividends right away, scoring on his first-ever shot of his first-ever NHL shift in his first NHL game. However, the team spent four more years out of the playoffs after his arrival. In the late 1980s, the Penguins finally gave Lemieux a strong supporting cast, trading for superstar defenseman Paul Coffey from the Edmonton Oilers (after the Oilers' 1987 Stanley Cup win) and bringing in young talent like scorers Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown and John Cullen from the minors. The team finally acquired a top-flight goaltender with the acquisition of Tom Barrasso from Buffalo. All this talent had an immediate impact in helping Lemieux lead the Pens but the team struggled to make the playoffs. The 1985–86 Pens missed the playoffs on the final day of the season by one game. In 1986–87, they missed the playoffs by just two games and saw four teams with equal or worse records qualify. In 1987–88, for the second time in a row, the Penguins missed the playoffs by one game. [10]

In 1989, Pittsburgh finally broke through the barrier and made the playoffs on the back of Lemieux leading the league in goals, assists and points. On December 31, 1988, Lemieux became the only player in history to score a goal in all five possible game situations in the same game (even strength, shorthanded, penalty shot, power play, and empty net). The Pens shocked the New York Rangers in a four-game sweep in the first round however, the Philadelphia Flyers halted their in the second round. The seven-game defeat featured Lemieux scoring five goals in the fifth game. [10]

Back-to-back Stanley Cup titles (1989–1997)

A herniated disc in Lemieux's back cut short his 1989–90 season, although he still amassed 123 points. However, the Penguins fell out of the playoff picture. They opted to strengthen their roster and support Lemieux in the 1990 off-season. Free-agent signings (Bryan Trottier) and trades (Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson) played a major part in this. Arguably no move was bigger during this time than when the Penguins drafted Jaromir Jagr with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. The first Czechoslovak player to be drafted into the NHL without first needing to defect to the West, Jagr became the Penguins' second franchise player, and quickly developed into a superstar offensive talent. The roster overhaul culminated in the Penguins winning their first Stanley Cup title by defeating the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals in six games, punctuated by an 8–0 victory in the deciding game, the largest margin of victory in a final Stanley Cup game in over 80 years. After the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins met with President George H. W. Bush, the first NHL team ever to visit the White House. [17] The following season, the team lost coach Bob Johnson to cancer, and Scotty Bowman took over as coach. Under Bowman, they swept the Chicago Blackhawks to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 1991–92. [5] [10]

Cancer revisited the Penguins in 1993 when Lemieux was tragically diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Only two months after the diagnosis, missing 24 out of 84 games, he came back to win his fourth Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion with 160 points, edging out Pat LaFontaine and Adam Oates. Despite the off-ice difficulties, Pittsburgh finished with a 56–21–7 record, the franchise's best regular-season ever, winning the Presidents' Trophy. After Lemieux's return, the team played better than it ever had before, winning an NHL-record 17 consecutive games. Despite all of this success, the New York Islanders eliminated them in the second round of Game 7 in overtime. [10] [5]

The Penguins continued to be a formidable team throughout the 1990s. The stars of the Stanley Cup years were followed by the likes of forwards: Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka, Aleksey Morozov, Robert Lang and Petr Nedved, and defensemen Sergei Zubov, Darius Kasparaitis and Kevin Hatcher. Despite the departure of many of the franchise's Stanley Cup-winning roster, the Penguins fielded enough talent to reach the first round of the playoffs in 1994 (where they lost to the Washington Capitals in six games), the second round in 1995 (where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in five games) and the conference finals in 1996 (where they lost to the Florida Panthers in seven games). The 1997 playoffs marked a turning point, as the Penguins suffered a first-round elimination at the hands of the rival Philadelphia Flyers in five games. [10]

Lemieux's retirement and return (1997–2001)

On April 6, 1997, the franchise was rocked when Mario Lemieux, citing ongoing health concerns and his disapproval with the way NHL hockey was being officiated, announced he would retire at the conclusion of the 1997 playoffs. Lemieux was so respected in the NHL, and his achievements over the course of his career were so great, that he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the year he retired, the three-year waiting period being waived. His departure was the first in a series of events that would once again lead the Penguins into regular season stagnation, and to the brink of financial ruin.

The Montreal Canadiens eliminated the team in the first round of the playoffs in 1998, despite being the second-seeded team in the East. The following year, their playoff run ended in the second round when they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games. In 2000, the Penguins stunned the highly touted Washington Capitals 4–1 in the first round, only to fall to the Philadelphia Flyers 4–2 in the second round. The lofty contracts handed out during the early 1990s were catching up with the franchise. Its free-spending ways culminated in the team owing over of $90 million to various creditors. Then-owners Howard Baldwin and Morris Belzberg (who bought the Penguins after their first Stanley Cup win) asked the players to defer their salaries to help pay the bills. When the deferred salaries finally came due, combined with other financial pressures, the Penguins were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 1998. Lemieux then stepped in with an unusual proposal to buy the team out of bankruptcy. The Penguins owed Lemieux $32.5 million in deferred salary, making him the team's largest individual creditor. He proposed recovering this money by converting it into equity—enough to give him controlling interest over the team. He also vowed to keep the team in Pittsburgh. The NHL and the courts agreed, and Lemieux (with help from supermarket tycoon Ronald Burkle) assumed control on September 3, 1999, saving the franchise for the second time. [5]

Lemieux again shocked the hockey world by announcing at a press conference on December 8, 2000, his intentions to return to the Penguins as an active player. On December 27, 2000, Lemieux stepped onto NHL ice for the first time in 44 months, officially becoming the first player–owner in NHL history. Lemieux helped lead the Penguins deep into the 2001 playoffs, highlighted by an overtime victory against the Buffalo Sabres in Game 7 of the second round. Darius Kasparaitis scored the series-clinching goal to advance the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost in five games to the New Jersey Devils. [5]

Rebuilding (2001–2005)

The Penguins' attendance had dwindled in the late 1990s. In 1998–99, the club had an average attendance of 14,825 at home games, the lowest it had been since Lemieux's rookie year. [18] Reducing revenue on top of the previous bankruptcy necessitated salary shedding. The biggest salary move was the trading of superstar Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001. The Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years in 2002, finishing in a tie for third-to-last in their conference. The following season they finished second-last. In the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Penguins selected goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the first overall pick. [19] [20]

The 2003–04 season was an ordeal with Lemieux missing all but 24 regular-season games with a hip injury, and attendance dipping to an average of 11,877 (the lowest average of any NHL team), with just one sellout. [18] As the season progressed, the Penguins signed new head coach (and former Penguins' player and commentator) Eddie Olczyk and opted not to include Fleury in the lineup for the bulk of the season. This culminated in the worst record in the NHL, with the team winning just 23 games. As in the 1980s, the Penguins' struggles were fortuitously concurrent with a string of NHL Entry Draft classes that would yield multiple world-class talents. The Penguins lost out on the first overall pick for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (Alexander Ovechkin), which went to the Washington Capitals. However, Ovechkin's countryman, center Evgeni Malkin, was similarly highly regarded, and Pittsburgh took him with the second overall pick. However, a transfer dispute between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) delayed his Pittsburgh debut. [21]

By this point, the Penguins had collapsed financially since the Stanley Cup-winning years of the early 1990s. Their home venue, the Civic Arena, had become the oldest arena in the NHL, and Lemieux had tried unsuccessfully to cut a deal with the city for a new facility. With Pittsburgh uninterested in building a new hockey arena for the struggling Penguins, Lemieux began looking into the possibilities of selling and/or relocating the team to Kansas City, Missouri. [22] A lockout prompted the cancellation of the 2004–05 NHL season. One of the many reasons for the lockout included disagreements on resolving the financial struggles of teams like the Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, which had filed for bankruptcy protection. [23] During the lockout, the Penguins' players dispersed between the club's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and to European leagues. [5]

Crosby–Malkin era (2005–present)

With the lockout resolved in 2005, the NHL organized an unprecedented draft lottery to set the 2005 NHL Entry Draft selection order. The draft lottery, which was held behind closed doors in a "secure location", resulted in the Penguins being awarded the first overall pick. [24] [25] [26] Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) superstar Sidney Crosby (who had been training with Lemieux over the summer) [24] was the consensus first overall pick, with many referring to the draft lottery process as "The Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes". The Penguins selected Crosby on July 30, 2005, with the top pick, instantly rekindling interest in hockey in Pittsburgh. [10]

The Penguins began rebuilding the team under the salary cap. However, Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins' 2004 draft pick, could not report to Pittsburgh immediately because of a playing rights dispute with the Russian Superleague. The addition of Crosby paid instant dividends, with attendance rising by approximately 4,000 per game on average in the 2005–06 season. [18] However, Crosby's presence did not immediately translate into wins, as the team began the season with a long winless skid that resulted in a head coaching change from Olczyk to Michel Therrien. Then, on January 24, 2006, Lemieux announced his second retirement, after developing an irregular heartbeat, this time permanently. He finished as the NHL's seventh all-time scorer (1,723), eighth in goals (690) and tenth in assists (1,033), and with the second-highest career points per game average (1.88), which is second to Wayne Gretzky's 1.92. [27] [28]

Despite the team's struggles, Crosby established himself as a star in the league, amassing 102 points in his debut season and finishing second to Alexander Ovechkin for the Calder Memorial Trophy awarded each year to the league's top rookie. In the Penguins' final game of the season, Crosby tallied a goal and an assist to become the top-scoring rookie in Penguin history (eclipsing Lemieux). The Penguins again posted the worst record in the Eastern Conference and the highest goals-against total in the League. They received the second overall draft pick, their fourth top-two pick in four years, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and selected touted two-way forward Jordan Staal. The team announced on April 20 they would not renew the contract for general manager Craig Patrick, who had been the general manager since December 1989. [29] On May 25, Ray Shero signed a five-year contract as general manager.

Runner–up and third Stanley Cup title (2006–2009)

Change came for the Penguins on October 18, 2006, when Evgeni Malkin made his NHL debut. He set the modern NHL record with a goal in each of his first six games. Malkin would record points in 16 consecutive games. [30] The Penguins finished the 2006–07 season in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47–24–11, totaling 105 points, only two points behind the Atlantic Division winners, the New Jersey Devils. It was the franchise's first 100-point season in 11 years and represented an enormous 47-point leap from the previous season. In the first round of the 2007 playoffs the eventual Stanley Cup runners-up, the Ottawa Senators, defeated the Penguins 4–1. At the season's end, rookies Malkin and Jordan Staal were finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the Rookie of the Year, which Malkin won.

On March 13, 2007, Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Mario Lemieux of the Penguins ownership group announced an agreement had been reached among the parties to build the long-sought arena. The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility, the Consol Energy Center, guaranteed that the Penguins would remain in the city of Pittsburgh. Following the announcement of the plan, the Lemieux ownership group announced they no longer had plans to sell the team. On June 8, 2007, a $325 million bond was issued, and the Penguins signed a 30-year lease on September 19, binding them to the city of Pittsburgh through 2040. [31]

After a mediocre start to the 2007–08 season, Crosby and starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were both injured long-term due to high right ankle sprains. In their absence, the team flourished because of the play and leadership of Malkin. On April 2, 2008, the Penguins clinched the Atlantic Division title—their first division title in 10 years—with a 4–2 win against rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. Malkin finished the season with 106 points for second place in the league and finished as a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy. The team launched into their first extended playoff run in many years, beating Ottawa 4–0, defeating the New York Rangers 4–1 and then defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4–1 to clinch the Prince of Wales Trophy. Pittsburgh lost the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings in six games, finishing the playoffs with a 14–6 record. Crosby finished the playoffs with 27 points (6 goals and 21 assists in 20 games), tying Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Henrik Zetterberg (13 goals and 14 assists in 22 games) for the playoff scoring lead.

In the 2008–09 season, Malkin won the Art Ross and was again a candidate for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Crosby finished third in League scoring with 33 goals and 70 assists for 103 points, despite missing five games. The Penguins' record dipped mid-season but lifted after Dan Bylsma replaced head coach Therrien. The effect was almost instantaneous, and the Penguins recovered enough to secure home-ice advantage in their first-round match up against the Philadelphia Flyers, whom the Penguins defeated in six games. It took seven games for the Penguins to win the next series against Washington, sending them to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in a four-game sweep. After defeating the Hurricanes, the Penguins earned their second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings, to whom they lost the previous year. After losing Games 1 and 2 in Detroit, like the previous years, the Penguins won Games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh. Each team won on home ice in Games 5 and 6. In Game 7 in Detroit, Maxime Talbot scored two goals, including the game-winner, as the Penguins won 2–1 to win their third Stanley Cup title. [32] Malkin was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. [10]

New arena and injuries (2009–2015)

During the 2009–10 season, Crosby scored 109 points (51 goals and 58 assists) in 81 games, winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL season's leading goalscorer. The Penguins, seeded fourth in the East, began their title defense, defeating the Ottawa Senators in six games. In the next round, the Penguins faced the Montreal Canadiens. The teams swapped wins in the series en route to the decisive Game 7, which the Penguins lost 5–2, ending their season and their tenure at Mellon Arena. [33]

In 2010–11, the Penguins played their first game in the Consol Energy Center. On February 11, 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins–New York Islanders brawl took place. [34] A season-ending concussion suffered by Crosby and a knee injury to Malkin marred the season. The team left early in the playoffs, blowing a 3–1 series lead to Tampa Bay Lightning, with Fleury's goal tending called into question. [35] With Crosby still sidelined with post-concussion syndrome, at the start of the 2011–12 season, Malkin led the Penguins' top line and dominated league scoring. He finished with 50 goals and 109 points as the Penguins earned 51 wins on the season. With Malkin's Art Ross-winning performance, and Crosby's late-season return from injury, the Penguins headed into the 2012 playoffs with high hopes of making a significant Stanley Cup run. However, their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, defeated the highly favored Penguins in six games. [36] Malkin was later awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson award. Following the Penguins' disappointing playoff exit, general manager Ray Shero made changes to the team at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft for the upcoming 2012–13 season. [37] [38]

During the lockout-shortened 2012–13 season, the Penguins again fought through serious injury. At the end of the regular season, they finished atop the Eastern Conference, matching up against the New York Islanders in round one. The Penguins defeated the Islanders in six games, with Fleury struggling once again. The team then dispatched the Ottawa Senators in five games before being swept in the Conference Finals by the Boston Bruins, scoring just two goals in the entire four-game sweep. On June 13, 2013, Malkin signed an eight-year contract extension worth an annual average of $9.5 million. [39]

In the 2013–14 season, the Penguins suffered numerous injuries throughout the campaign. Despite the adversity, the Penguins won the realigned, eight-team Metropolitan Division, though the club struggled in the playoffs, requiring six games to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets, then losing to the New York Rangers in seven games despite leading the series 3–1 after four games. This collapse prompted Penguins ownership to fire general manager Shero, replacing him on June 6 with Jim Rutherford, the former general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. [40] Rutherford's first action as general manager was to fire head coach Dan Bylsma, and on June 25, he announced that Mike Johnston was hired as Bylsma's replacement. In the 2014–15 season, the Penguins led the Metropolitan Division for the first half of the season. However, after losing players to injuries and illnesses, including the mumps, the team fell to fourth in the Division. The Pens lost in five games to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. In the off-season, Rutherford traded several players and picks to acquire star winger Phil Kessel. [41]

Back-to-back Stanley Cups and 50th anniversary (2015–2017)

After acquiring Kessel, the Penguins had high expectations for the 2015–16 season. However, by December 12, 2015, the team was barely managing a winning season, posting a 15–10–3 record. The organization fired head coach Mike Johnston, and replaced him with Mike Sullivan, who had previously served as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. [42] This move was followed by a series of trades by Jim Rutherford. [43] [44]

The Penguins qualified for the playoffs for the tenth consecutive season. They earned second place in the Metropolitan Division with 104 points. In the playoffs, the Penguins defeated the Rangers in a 4–1 series, the Capitals 4–2 and the Lightning 4–3 to win the Eastern Conference Championship, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals against the San Jose Sharks. [45] On June 12, 2016, the Penguins defeated the Sharks in a 4–2 series to win their fourth Stanley Cup title. Captain Sidney Crosby was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. [46]

The Penguins opened their 50th anniversary season in the NHL as defending Stanley Cup champions, raising their commemorative banner on October 13, 2016, in a shootout victory over Washington. [47] The Penguins faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs, defeating them in five games. In the second round, they played against their divisional rival, Washington, and faced them for the second-straight year in the same round, winning a seven-game series. In the Conference Finals, the Penguins eliminated the Ottawa Senators in seven games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they faced the Nashville Predators. The Penguins won the first two games of the finals and then lost the next two matchups before dominating the fifth and the sixth games of the series to win the Stanley Cup for the second straight year. By defending their title, the Penguins became the first team since the 1997–98 Detroit Red Wings to defend their title successfully and the first to do so in the salary cap era. [5]

Contenders (2017–present)

Before the 2017–18 season, the Penguins lost longtime goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. [48] Nevertheless, the Penguins again qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs with the second division playoff spot, finishing the regular season with 100 points. They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in six games, but were defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in six games. [49] In the next season, the Penguins clinched a playoff berth, but were swept by the New York Islanders in the First Round. [50] In the following season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team advanced to the 2020 playoffs, but were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens in the Qualifying Round. [51] On February 9, 2021, the Penguins named Ron Hextall as their new general manager, after Jim Rutherford resigned from his post on January 27, because of personal reasons. Brian Burke was hired as president of hockey operations. [52] [53] On February 21, Crosby became the first player to reach 1,000 NHL games for the team. [54] The Penguins won the East Division title, extending their playoff streak to 15 seasons. [55] This became the longest active streak in North American sports as a result of the San Antonio Spurs missing the 2020 NBA playoffs. [56] The 2020–21 season came to an end in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs against the New York Islanders. [57]


Despite Pittsburgh's long history with hockey and a small but loyal fanbase, the Penguins struggled with fan support early on in its history, at times averaging only 6,000 fans per game when Civic Arena had a seating capacity of over 16,000. Fan support was so low by the team's first bankruptcy that the NHL had no problem with the team being moved, something that would change decades later when the team faced another relocation threat.

While the drafting of Mario Lemieux piqued interest in hockey locally, fans remained skeptical. John Steigerwald, brother of former Penguins broadcaster Paul Steigerwald, [58] noted in his autobiography that upon his arrival at KDKA-TV from WTAE-TV in 1985, the station cared more about the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League than the Penguins. [59] However, Lemieux's play steadily grew the fanbase in the area, which would only be reassured upon the arrival of Sidney Crosby after the team struggled both on the ice and in attendance following the Jaromir Jagr trade.

Today, the Penguins are one of the NHL's most popular teams, especially among American non-Original Six franchises, and are considered second behind the Steelers among Pittsburgh's three major professional sports teams, taking advantage of both its success and the Pittsburgh Pirates struggles both on and off the field. [60] Especially notable was a 2007 survey done of the four major sports leagues' 122 teams. The Penguins surprised observers by being ranked 20th overall and third among NHL teams, while the Steelers were ranked number one and the Pirates (before the arrival of Andrew McCutchen and that team's turnaround) [61] ranked much lower on the list than its peers. The Penguins' popularity has at times rivaled that of the Steelers at the local level. [62]


Philadelphia Flyers

Considered by some to be the best rivalry in the NHL, [63] [64] [65] the Philadelphia Flyers–Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry began in 1967 when the teams were introduced in the NHL's "Next Six" expansion wave. The rivalry exists both due to divisional alignment and geographic location, as both teams play in Pennsylvania. The Flyers lead the head-to-head record with a 153–98-30 record. [66] However, the Penguins eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 and were eliminated by them from the playoffs in 2012, strengthening the rivalry. [67] The franchises have met seven times in the playoffs, with the Flyers winning four series (1989 Patrick Division Finals, 4–3 1997 Eastern Conference Quarter-finals, 4–1 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-finals, 4–2 and 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter-finals, 4–2) and the Penguins winning three (2008 Eastern Conference Finals, 4–1 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 4–2 and 2018 Eastern Conference First Round, 4–2).

Washington Capitals

The two teams have faced off 11 times in the playoffs, with the Penguins winning nine of the 11 matchups, their two series losses coming in the 1994 and 2018 playoffs. The Penguins defeated the Capitals en route to their five Stanley Cup victories. They have met in a decisive game 7 in the 1992, 1995, 2009 and 2017 playoffs. The NHL's fourth Winter Classic, played on January 1, 2011, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh showcased this rivalry. The Capitals won the game 3–1. The rivalry can also be seen in the American Hockey League (AHL). Pittsburgh's top farm team is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and their in-state and biggest rivals are the Capitals' top farm team, the Hershey Bears. [68] [69] [70]

Crest and sweater design

When the Penguins made their NHL debut in 1967, the team wore the colors dark blue, light blue and white. The uniforms had the word "Pittsburgh" written diagonally down the front of the sweater with three dark blue stripes around the sleeves and bottom. The logo featured a hockey-playing penguin in a scarf over an inverted triangle, symbolizing the Golden Triangle of downtown Pittsburgh. A refined version of the logo appeared on a redesigned uniform in the second season, which removed the scarf and gave the penguin a sleeker look. The circle encompassing the logo was later removed. [71] The team's colors were originally powder blue, navy blue, and white. The powder blue was changed to royal blue in 1973 but returned in 1977. The team adopted the current black and gold color scheme in 1980 to unify the colors of the city's professional sports teams although, like the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Steelers, the shade of gold more closely resembled yellow. The change was not without controversy, as the Boston Bruins protested by claiming to own the rights to the black and gold colors. However, the Penguins cited the colors worn by the now-defunct NHL team the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1920s, as well as black and gold being the official colors of the City of Pittsburgh and its namesake, and obtained permission to use the black and gold colors. The NHL's Pittsburgh Pirates used old Pittsburgh Police uniforms, [72] beginning the black and gold color tradition in the city. [71]

This remained unchanged until the 1992–93 season, when the team unveiled new uniforms and introduced the "flying penguin" logo. [73] [74] The team's away uniforms were a throwback to the team's first season, as they revived the diagonal "Pittsburgh" script. In 1995, the team introduced their second alternate jersey, featuring different stripe designs on each sleeve. This jersey proved to be so popular that the team adopted it as their away jersey in 1997. When the new jerseys were unveiled for the 2007–08 season league wide, the Penguins made major striping pattern changes and removed the "flying penguin" logo from the shoulders. [71]

The Penguins have worn their black jersey at home since the league began the initiative to do so beginning with the 2003–04 NHL season. The team wore their powder blue, 1968–1972 "throwbacks" against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL Winter Classic. This throwback was supposedly retired with the introduction of a new dark blue third jersey that made its debut at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. [75] For the 2011–12 season, the 2011 Winter Classic jersey was the team's official third uniform, with the 2008 Winter Classic uniform having been retired. [76] Called the "Blue Jerseys of Doom" by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the alternate jerseys were worn when Sidney Crosby sustained a broken jaw and when he suffered a concussion in the 2011 Winter Classic. Evgeni Malkin was also concussed during a game when the Penguins donned the alternate uniforms. [71] [77] [78]

In 2014, the Penguins released their new alternate uniforms. The new black uniforms are throwbacks to the early part of Lemieux's playing career, emulating the uniforms worn by the Penguins' 1991 and 1992 Cup-winning teams. The new alternate uniform featured "Pittsburgh gold", the particular shade of gold which had been retired when the Penguins switched to the metallic gold full-time in 2002. [79] A commemorative patch was added to the uniforms throughout the 2016–17 season to celebrate the team's 50th anniversary. [80] During the 2017 NHL Stadium Series against the archrival Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins wore a special gold uniform featuring military-inspired lettering, a "City of Champions" patch and a variation of the "skating penguin" logo. [81]



The Penguins currently have their radio home on WXDX-FM and their television home on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Penguins Radio Network consists of a total of 34 stations in four states. [82] Twenty three of these are in Pennsylvania, four in West Virginia, three in Ohio, and three in Maryland. The network also features an FM High-Definition station in Pittsburgh.


Local ABC affiliate WTAE-TV broadcast the Penguins during the 1967–68 season, with station Sports Director Ed Conway handling the play-by-play during both the television and radio broadcasts. He remained the lone play-by-play broadcaster until the completion of the 1968–69 season. Joe Tucker took over for Ed Conway during the 1969–70 season, when WPGH-TV and WTAE-TV split Penguins' broadcasts. WPGH-TV retained the rights to broadcast the Penguins for the 1970–71 season, with Bill Hamilton handing the play-by-play duties. The 1970–71 season was also the first season where the Penguins introduced a color commentator to the broadcast team, with John MacDonald taking the position in the booth. [83] [84]

Mike Lange, who joined the Penguins' broadcast team as a play-by-play announcer on the radio side in 1974–75 became the play-by-play broadcaster for the team at the start of the 1979–80 season. At his side was Terry Schiffauer, who had previously held the position of Penguins' director of public relations and eventually transitioned into color commentator for Sam Nover in 1972–73. Lange and Schiffauer remained a team in the Penguins' broadcast booth until 1984–85, when Schiffauer was replaced by Paul Steigerwald. Lange and Steigerwald remained a constant in the broadcast booth from 1985 until 1999.

With Steigerwald's departure in 1999, Mike Lange shared the broadcast booth with former Penguins' defenseman Peter Taglianetti. Taglianetti remained in the position for one season before being replaced by Eddie Olczyk. Lange and Olczyk were broadcast partners from 2000 until 2003, when Olczyk left the booth to become the 18th head coach in Penguins' history following the firing of previous head coach Rick Kehoe after the 2002–03 season. [85] With Olczyk's vacancy, the Penguins hired Bob Errey as their new color commentator for the start of the 2003–04 season. Lange and Errey remained in the booth until 2005–06. After 26 seasons in the television broadcast booth, FSN Pittsburgh did not retain Mike Lange. Instead, he was replaced by former broadcast partner Paul Steigerwald, who remained the team's TV play-by-play broadcaster until the 2016–17 season. Lange returned to the radio broadcast booth and currently holds the position of radio play-by-play announcer, the same position he held with the team in the mid-1970s. Following the 2016–17 season, Steigerwald moved back to the Penguins front office and NHL Network personality Steve Mears was hired as the new television play-by-play announcer starting with the 2017–18 season.

Every Penguins game is currently carried on the AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh network, which is carried by cable providers in most of two states and parts of four others. In addition, Fox Sports Ohio simulcasts Penguins hockey in the Cleveland metro area, as well as some parts of Eastern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Dish Network, Verizon FiOS, and Direct TV each carry the Penguins games on their AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh channel in HD nationally. The Pittsburgh Penguins also receive monthly and sometimes weekly "game of the week" national exposure on both NBC Sports Network and NBC, along with TSN and CBC Sports in Canada. Prior to 2004, Penguins games had been aired on ESPN and ESPN2.


The Penguins called Civic Arena home for over 45 seasons from their inception in 1967. In September 2010, they completed the move to the state-of-the-art Consol Energy Center (now named the PPG Paints Arena). The Penguins also played two "home" games in the Cleveland suburb of Richfield, Ohio, in 1992 and 1993 at the Richfield Coliseum (this is not unlike the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA playing an annual pre-season game in Pittsburgh [86] the Philadelphia 76ers used the Civic Arena as a second home in the early 1970s). [87]

From 1995 to 2015, the IceoPlex at Southpointe in the South Hills suburbs served as the team's practice facility. Robert Morris University's 84 Lumber Arena has served as a secondary practice facility for the team. During the franchise's first pre-season training camp and pre-season exhibition games, the Brantford Civic Centre in Brantford, Ontario, served as its home, [88] and by the 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, the team was using the suburban Rostraver Ice Garden for training.

In August 2015, the Penguins and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) opened the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, combining a new team practice and training facility with a UPMC Sports Medicine treatment and research complex, in suburban Cranberry Township near the interchange between Interstate 79 and Pennsylvania Route 228. [89] The twin rink facility replaced both the IceoPlex at Southpointe and the 84 Lumber Arena as the Penguins' regular practice facility, freeing up the Consol Energy Center for other events on days the Penguins are not scheduled to play. [90]

As with most other NHL arenas, the Penguins make use of a goal horn whenever the team scores a goal at home. It is also played just before the beginning of a home game, and after a Penguins victory. Their current goal horn made by Nathan Manufacturing, Inc. and introduced in 2005 to coincide with Sidney Crosby joining the team, was used at both the Civic Arena and the Consol Energy Center. [91] [92]

Minor league affiliates

The Penguins have two minor league affiliates assigned to their team. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, their AHL affiliate, have played in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania, since 1999. The Penguins also have a secondary affiliate in the ECHL, the Wheeling Nailers, which they have been associated with since the start of the 2000–01 season. [93]

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Penguins. [94]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L OTL Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
2016–17 82 50 21 11 111 282 234 2nd, Metropolitan Stanley Cup champions, 4–2 (Predators)
2017–18 82 47 29 6 100 272 250 2nd, Metropolitan Lost in Second Round, 2–4 (Capitals)
2018–19 82 44 26 12 100 273 241 3rd, Metropolitan Lost in First Round, 0–4 (Islanders)
2019–20 69 40 23 6 86 224 196 3rd, Metropolitan Lost in Qualifying Round, 1–3 (Canadiens)
2020–21 56 37 16 3 77 196 156 1st, East Lost in First Round, 2–4 (Islanders)

Current roster

# Nat Player Pos S/G Age Acquired Birthplace
57 Anthony Angello RW R 25 2014 Manlius, New York
12 Zach Aston-Reese C L 26 2017 Staten Island, New York
53 Teddy Blueger C L 26 2012 Riga, Latvia
77 Jeff Carter C/RW R 36 2021 London, Ontario
4 Cody Ceci D R 27 2020 Ottawa, Ontario
87 Sidney Crosby (C) C L 33 2005 Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia
33 Alex D'Orio G R 22 2017 Sherbrooke, Quebec
1 Casey DeSmith G L 29 2017 Rochester, New Hampshire
8 Brian Dumoulin D L 29 2012 Biddeford, Maine
52 Mark Friedman D R 25 2021 Toronto, Ontario
11 Frederick Gaudreau C R 28 2020 Bromont, Quebec
59 Jake Guentzel LW L 26 2013 Omaha, Nebraska
14 Mark Jankowski C L 26 2020 Hamilton, Ontario
35 Tristan Jarry G L 26 2013 Surrey, British Columbia
42 Kasperi Kapanen RW R 24 2020 Kuopio, Finland
18 Sam Lafferty C R 26 2014 Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
31 Maxime Lagace G L 28 2020 Longueuil, Quebec
58 Kris Letang (A) D R 34 2005 Montreal, Quebec
71 Evgeni Malkin (A) C L 34 2004 Magnitogorsk, Soviet Union
6 John Marino D R 24 2019 North Easton, Massachusetts
5 Mike Matheson D L 27 2020 Pointe-Claire, Quebec
19 Jared McCann C L 25 2019 Stratford, Ontario
28 Marcus Pettersson D L 25 2018 Skellefteå, Sweden
50 Juuso Riikola D L 27 2018 Joensuu, Finland
9 Evan Rodrigues RW R 27 2020 Etobicoke, Ontario
2 Chad Ruhwedel D R 31 2016 San Diego, California
17 Bryan Rust RW R 29 2010 Pontiac, Michigan
7 Colton Sceviour C R 32 2020 Red Deer, Alberta
13 Brandon Tanev LW L 29 2019 Toronto, Ontario
67 Radim Zohorna C L 25 2020 Havlíčkův Brod, Czech Republic
16 Jason Zucker LW L 29 2020 Newport Beach, California

Honored members

Retired numbers

  • A Taken out of circulation following Briere's death (1971), but not officially retired until January 5, 2001.
  • B Lemieux's number was restored when he resumed playing for the team on December 27, 2000, and once again retired on October 5, 2006.
  • Though not retired, no. 68 has not been issued since Jaromir Jagr was traded in 2001 and Lemieux himself confirmed that the number would be retired by the franchise in the future. [99]
  • The NHL retired Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 for all its member teams at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. [100]

Hockey Hall of Fame

The Pittsburgh Penguins presently acknowledge an affiliation with a number of inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Inductees affiliated with the Penguins include 14 former players and five builders of the sport. [a] [101] The four individuals recognized as builders by the Hockey Hall of Fame includes former head coaches, and general managers.

In addition to builders and players, broadcasters and sports journalists have also been recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2001, radio play-by-play broadcaster Mike Lange, was awarded the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hall of Fame. [102] In 2009, Dave Molinari, a sports journalist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was awarded the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award from the Hall of Fame. [103]

Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Hall of Fame inductees
Affiliation with inductees based on team acknowledgement
Hall of Fame players [101]
Andy Bathgate
Leo Boivin
Paul Coffey
Ron Francis
Tim Horton
Marian Hossa
Jarome Iginla
Mario Lemieux
Joe Mullen
Larry Murphy
Mark Recchi
Luc Robitaille
Bryan Trottier
Sergei Zubov
Hall of Fame builders [101]
Scotty Bowman Herb Brooks Bob Johnson Craig Patrick Jim Rutherford

Team captains

All the players who have served as team captain with the Penguins franchise

    , 1967–1968 , 1968–1969 , 1973–1977 , 1977–1978 , 1978–1981 , 1981–1984 , 1984–1986 , 1986–1987 , 1987 , 1987–1994, 1995–1997, 2001–2006 , 1995, [104] 1997–1998 , 1998–2001 , 2007–present

Franchise individual records

These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. [105] Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

Player Seasons Pos GP G A Pts +/− PIM
Mario Lemieux 1984–1997
C 915 690 1,033 1,723 115 834
Sidney Crosby* 2005–present C 1039 486 839 1,325 183 699
Evgeni Malkin* 2006–present C 940 424 680 1,104 69 984
Jaromir Jagr 1990–2001 RW 806 439 640 1,079 207 593
Rick Kehoe 1974–1985 RW 722 312 324 636 −86 88
Ron Francis 1990–1998 C 533 164 449 613 70 295
Jean Pronovost 1968–1978 RW 753 316 287 603 32 306
Kris Letang* 2007–present D 863 134 448 582 80 612
Kevin Stevens 1987–1995
LW 522 260 295 555 −40 1,048
Syl Apps Jr. 1970–1978 C 495 151 349 500 94 241

Franchise goaltending leaders

These are the top-ten goaltenders in franchise history by wins. [106] Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

  • Owner(s) – Mario Lemieux, Ron Burkle
  • Chairman – Mario Lemieux
  • President/Chief Executive Officer – David Morehouse
  • President of Hockey Operations – Brian Burke
  • General Manager – Ron Hextall
  • Assistant General Manager – Patrik Allvin
  • Director of Hockey Operations and Hockey Research – Sam Ventura
  • Hockey Operations Assistant – Erik Heasley
  • Hockey Operations Advisor – Trevor Daley
  • Head Coach – Mike Sullivan
  • Assistant Coach – Todd Reirden
  • Assistant Coach – Mike Vellucci
  • Goaltending Coach – Mike Buckley
  • Director of Player Development – Scott Young
  • Player Development Coach – Tom Kostopoulos
  • Player Development – Matt Cullen
  • Goaltending Development Coach – Andy Chiodo
  • Strength & Conditioning – Alex Trinca, Alexi Pianosi
  • Video Coordinator – Andy Saucier
  • Manager of Team Operations – Jim Britt
  • Director of Player Personnel – Derek Clancey
  • Professional Scout – Craig Patrick
  • Director of Professional Scouting – Ryan Bowness

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation conducts numerous community activities to support both youth and families through hockey education and charity assistance.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that March of the Penguins is an unforgettable nature documentary that includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual trek from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. Some penguins die along the way, and others freeze during the long winter as they huddle to protect pregnant females and then eggs and babies, and still others are killed by predators.

'March of the Penguins' debuts - HISTORY

Although the penguin is the icon of the Antarctic, many penguins prefer lower latitudes. Several species venture as far south as the Antarctic Peninsula, but only the emperors and the Adélies live along the continental coastline.

If you were to conjure up an image of a penguin, it would probably look quite a lot like an Adélie: With a black back and white front, it’s the archetypical tuxedo-clad penguin. Named for Adéle, the wife of French explorer Admiral Durmont d’Urville, the Adélie is also one of the best-studied penguins.

Adélies spend most of the year at sea, but in October, when spring comes to Antarctica, they head for dry land on which to build nests, mate, lay eggs, and raise their chicks. An Adélie nest is lined with small stones. Prize pebbles are squabbled over and often purloined from inattentive neighbors.

In early November, the female lays two eggs and returns to the sea to feed, leaving the male to be the eggs’ first caretaker. The parents take turns incubating the eggs though, which hatch in about 35 days, and they continue to alternate between gathering food and watching over the young chicks.

Finally, the growing chicks, too hungry to be provisioned by just one parent at a time, are left together in a tightly packed group called a crèche, while both parents go hunting. In February, the juveniles exchange their down coats for seaworthy adult feathers and, along with the adults, soon leave the breeding ground for the pack ice.

Adélies breed in a number of places along the Antarctic coast, from the Ross Sea in the south to the Antarctic Peninsula far to the north. The southernmost quartet of colonies—at Cape Crozier, Cape Bird, and Cape Royds on Ross Island and another on Beaufort Island—differ from each other in size, weather, and distance from the open sea. Cape Crozier, known as Penguin City, is by far the largest, with about 150,000 breeding pairs. The trip from Penguin City to the ocean is a short one, but the large number of birds means that competition for food is intense. Life is more of a picnic for the penguins in the smaller colonies, even if they must walk a bit farther to reach the food.

In general, though, all the Ross Sea Adélies are doing well. Climate change has brought stronger winds that keep the water near the shore almost free of ice, making feeding areas more accessible. A warmer climate is benefiting these penguins—for the moment. But if temperatures continue to climb, these birds will face the severe problems being experienced by the Adélie in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

In the many months that the Adélies are away from land, they’re dependent on sea ice. It’s where they hunt and otherwise live. If their winter habitat is diminished, so are the penguins. This is currently the plight of the Adélies near the western Antarctic Peninsula—the region of Antarctica that’s experienced the greatest warming and greatest loss of sea ice. In addition, commercial fisheries and growing numbers of whales are increasingly competing for the reduced numbers of krill, a staple of the Adélie diet. This penguin population has declined by 80 percent since the 1970s.

Other climate changes will probably affect the breeding success of the Adélies. Antarctica is the driest place on earth—but with higher temperatures comes more precipitation and more meltwater from current snowfall and ancient glaciers. The pebbles that line an Adélie nest will protect the eggs from a small amount of meltwater, but a significant amount of meltwater will wash them away. And a serious snowstorm can not only destroy the eggs but can bury a stoic parent who tries to shelter them.

According to biologist David Ainley, who’s been studying Adélie penguins in Antarctica for more than twenty-five years, “If global warming begins to influence the more southern reaches of the Antarctic continent, then the entire world’s population of Adélie penguins could be at risk.”

The story of the emperors is one of superlatives: They are the tallest penguins, and the heaviest. They can dive the deepest. And they breed and raise their chicks in the harshest environmental conditions.

Unlike any other penguin, emperors raise their young during the Antarctic winter. Undaunted by fierce winds and plummeting temperatures, the mature emperors heave themselves out of the sea in March and head for their breeding grounds. The trek may be a long one: In the film March of the Penguins, the emperors walk about 70 miles (113 km), but for some other colonies, the distance is considerably less. Most colonies—there maybe 25 to 30—breed on fast ice along the coast, although two known colonies breed on land.

Courtships happen in a hurry, and in May or early June each female lays a single egg that must be carefully transferred to the feet of her mate. The male covers the egg with a flap of skin from its abdomen called a brood pouch and incubates the egg for two months. To keep warm during this dark, cold time, the papa penguins huddle closely together, taking turns being on the outside and inside of the group.

Once the eggs are safely in the care of the males, the females immediately return to the sea to hunt. If all goes well, they’ll be back in time to feed their newly hatched chicks. Then, like Adélie parents, the adults alternate making trips to the sea to satisfy the voracious appetites of their fast-growing youngsters. Eventually, when the chicks are large enough to take care of themselves, the parents begin to forage at the same time. In December or January, all the birds make their way to the sea—a shorter distance now that, with warmer temperatures, some of the fast ice has broken out.

Emperors march single-file from the sea to their breeding grounds in a line that may contain thousands of individuals.

The emperors have amazing adaptations that help them withstand the cold, go without food for many long weeks, and make arduous trips back and forth to the sea. Their adaptations for diving are impressive as well. Their dives have been measured to 1800 feet (550 m) and dives lasting more than 20 minutes have been recorded. Pressure increases with depth, which endangers gas-filled organs such as the lungs, but the emperors can protect their lungs by collapsing them. This stops the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream, but the emperors conserve oxygen by slowing their heart rate during dives. They also have extraordinary amounts of oxygen stored in muscle tissue and can use virtually all the oxygen in their bloodstream before having to surface for more.

Paul Ponganis, who is both a research biologist and an anesthesiologist, studies diving penguins at Antarctica’s Penguin Ranch research facility with his colleague from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jerry Kooyman. Ponganis thinks that what they learn about emperor physiology may have applications for human medical care such as for stroke victims who can sustain permanent damage if their brains don’t get enough oxygen.

Emperors have successfully survived for millennia, but as the environment undergoes rapid changes, their future is uncertain. Global warming may result in thin, unstable fast ice that breaks out too early, drowning eggs or chicks. Emperors also seem likely to face a declining food supply due both to pressure from commercial fisheries and to climate change.

Watch the video: March Of The Penguins 2005 He Wont Walk Alone