The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the NHL in the expansion of 1967 along with teams in St. Louis, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Los Angeles. The team was named by then owner, Jack McGregor's wife. The Civic Arena was known as 'The Big Igloo' at the time so while thinking of a P name, she made the connection giving the franchise its name.
In their first season they placed first in the Western Division and out of the playoffs. It wasn't until their third year that they got their first taste of postseason play. They lost, however, to the St. Louis Blues in the semi-finals. They again made the playoffs in 1971, but were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks. Throughout the rest of the 70's the Pens went through hot and cold streaks. In '72 and '73 the missed the postseason but made it back in the 1974-1975 season, in which the finished third in the newly formed Norris Division. They swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round and took at three games to none lead over the New York Islanders only to watch it slip away. The Islanders shutout the Pens 1-0 in game seven to win the series. The next few seasons saw the Pens either lose in the first round of the playoffs or miss them all-together. In 1978, however, they were back but lost to the Boston Bruins in the quarter-finals. In 1979 the Penguins dropped their columbia blue, navy blue, and white jerseys, borrowed from the famed St. Michael's Majors junior team in Toronto, in favor of a black and gold scheme much like Pittsburgh's other sports teams.
In the next three seasons the Pens made the playoffs only to lose in the first round of each. They fell to last place in the league in the 1983-1984 season. This, strangely enough, was the turning point for the franchise. Their last place standing allowed them to draft Mario Lemieux in the 1984 entry draft. In his first season Lemieux scored 100 points and won the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL. Even with this new boost the Penguins were at or close to the bottom of their division for the next six years. It wasn't until the 1988-1989 season that the Penguins made it back to the playoffs and the division finals. In late 1989 Craig Patrick became the general manager. His most significant trade was the multi-player trade for Ron Francis. He also drafted Jaromir Jagr in the 1990 entry draft and hiring Bob Johnson as head coach.
The Penguins finished first in the Patrick Division during 1990-1991 season. They made their way through the playoffs and beat the Minnesota North Stars in a six-game series for their first Stanley Cup. Tragedy struck the Penguins in the off-season with the loss of Bob Johnson to cancer. The legendary Scotty Bowman was brought in to fill the head coaching spot, taking the Penguins to their second Stanley Cup in the 1991-1992 season. During their quest for a third Stanley Cup in the 1992-1993 season, Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. He underwent a month of radiation treatment, and amazingly returned to win another scoring title. The Penguins were stunned, however, in a second round loss to the New York Islanders in a seven game series.
During the rest of the early 90's, Jaromir Jagr emerged as a dominant player in the NHL. Lemieux was still the headliner, but due to back injuries, he took the 1994-1995 season off. The next few seasons saw the Penguins' playoff performance drop from what it had been during their two Cup runs. Lemieux returned in 1995 but was still plagued with injuries and he announced his retirement at the close of the 1996-1997 season. That off-season also saw the firing of veteran coach Ed Johnston in favor of the defensive minded Kevin Constantine. The Pens finished first in their division but lost in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens.
Change in Pittsburgh continued as the Penguins struggled to maintain their previous stature. The economics of the game put a huge strain on the team, which could still field a very potent lineup. In 1999 a group headed by Lemieux purchased the team, which had filed for bankruptcy, and in late 2000 he returned to the team as a player. The Pens continued to make the playoffs but were unable to re-establish any long term marks. 2001 saw the dramatic comeback of Mario Lemieux and it took no time before 'Super Mario' was back in his usual form. Though unable to play back to back games, he still provided the Pens with a potent offensive threat. Due to the economic strains on the Pens, Jaromir Jagr's stay ended in 2001. Jagr would be traded to the Washington Capitals for some draft picks; a trade that was for all intents and purposes a salary dump. The Pens have continued to struggle with the economic realities of today's NHL, having to trade Alexei Kovalev to the Rangers and going for a young (and inexpensive) team under coach Eddie Olczyk with Mario Lemieux handling the multiple roles of player, Chairman and CEO of the Penguins.