THE Pittsburgh Penguins brought home North America's hockey championship early Sunday to a city still dazed by it all. Thousands of fans welcomed the team hours after it shut out the Minnesota North Stars 8 to 0 to win the championship four games to two. It was the first time in the franchise's 24 years that it reached the Stanley Cup finals.
Pro hockey is an upstart sport in much of the United States. It has its followers but fewer of them than pro football, baseball, or basketball. Pittsburgh is first and last a football town. The Steelers won four consecutive football championships in the 1970s.
The Pirates baseball team won three championships, yet their fans say football gets all the attention.
So the prospect of a hockey championship made the city happy but curious. During the finals, Pittsburghers who had never seen a regular-season game were suddenly cheering their team while they puzzled out the game. But they are learning.
They have figured out a rough pronunciation of the Penguins' star player, Mario Lemieux (lah-MYOO). He was the series' most valuable player. They have nicknamed the team the ``Pens.'' And everywhere it seemed, restaurants and businesses had put up ``Go Pens'' on their signs.
The final game in Minnesota was a deceptively easy romp.
The Minnesota North Stars, who posted only a mediocre regular season, blossomed during the playoffs. They knocked off the No. 1 and 2 favorites as well as last year's champions to reach the finals. They led the Penguins two games to one in the series before their streak came to an end. The Penguins went on to win three straight games behind the goal tending of Tom Barrasso, who made 39 saves in a brilliantly played final game.
The Pens' 8-to-0 shutout was the most lopsided final-round game in Stanley Cup history.