Two Minutes in the Box: With Ex-NHL Goaltender Frank Pietrangelo

Which teams did you play for in the NHL?

I was drafted in 1983 by the Pittsburgh Penguins and played for them for most of my career and then I finished up with the Hartford Whalers.

What was it like playing in the NHL?

Playing in the NHL was the ultimate! I was playing with the best players in the world, being treated first-class all the way. It was a great experience. The NHL has changed so much over the years.

What do you think of the game today?

I like the game today. They’ve taken away the obstruction. It’s a speedy and skillful game. It used to be tough for the little guy but now, as long as you can skate, you can play.

What do you think of goaltending today?

Goaltending has really evolved. Everyone is bigger! The average size of a goaltender these days is well over six feet. The equipment has really changed too. Back when I played, we were using the old leather stuff.

Do you still watch hockey?

I watch hockey every night. I’m a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan.

You own the Niagara Falls Canucks Junior B Team. Tell me what that’s like.

I’m at the rink every day. Hockey is my passion. I’ve never done anything but hockey-related stuff. Playing is the ultimate thrill but now I have the opportunity to give back to Niagara Falls. I’m born and raised here. I played for the Niagara Falls Canucks myself. I get to stay involved with the game and by coaching, you can get the same feel as when you play, like the camaraderie in the dressing room or the butterflies before the game. It’s the closest thing to playing.

It’s obvious that you have very close ties to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls is home! Always has been, always will be. My wife Kim and I always said there was no question that we would settle down here. Our families are here.

Your most famous moment came in Game 6, opening round against the New Jersey Devils…”The Save”…You made a glove save against Peter Stastny, who was coming at you at point blank range. Can you describe that moment?

(Laughingly) I can’t really say anything about that split moment because it was just reactionary. I made the first save. It was a deflection and I just reached back and tried to stop the next puck. That’s what goaltenders do. Looking back on it now, it’s pretty incredible! In Pittsburgh in particular, “The Save” has taken on a life of its own. It was part of the first Stanley Cup win. The chips were down. We were down 3 games to 2 going into New Jersey having lost Game 5 at home. Most people had written us off. Tom Barrasso was our #1 goalie and he didn’t play, which gave me the opportunity. For the most part, everyone thought Jersey was going to win the round with that game. With “The Save” came the win, and everything took off from there.

“The Save” helped the Penguins win the game and the series, which led to the Stanley Cup win. What was it like being part of a Stanley Cup championship?

Winning is everything in sports. You’re measured by winning. As kids, we walk around pretending to lift the Stanley Cup in our backyards. For it to become my reality was just fantastic. With Pittsburgh being close to Niagara Falls, my family and friends came to every one of the games during the playoffs. It was great to be able to share in the experience. To actually hold that Stanley Cup above my head; well that was a dream come true.

Would you say that was the greatest moment of your career?

No doubt about it!

What was the best part of playing in the NHL?

It has to be the friendships I made. A lot of people have said that the team was really good and that’s why we were close. I think it’s the other way around. We were all close and that’s why we were good. It’s the chemistry that we had together. Even after all these years, when we see each other again, it’s like seeing family. The memories that we made last a lifetime. The friendships you make along the way to winning a championship are hard to describe.

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