A long way from Tarnstrom: Pittsburgh Penguins will host 200th sellout in a row Saturday

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It’s hard to believe that less than 10 years ago, both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks basically had to give tickets away. The outlook was grim for both franchises, as the Blackhawks’ cavernous United Center was often sparsely populated while the Penguins put such a bad hockey team on the ice that obscure defenseman Dick Tarnstrom was the team’s leading scorer in 2003-04 with 52 points.

Yet now the two latest Stanley Cup winning teams rank among the hottest tickets in hockey. This turnaround is exemplified by the fact that the Penguins will host their 200th consecutive sellout when they play against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

What might be most impressive is that this streak easily bests the franchise’s other golden era, which featured the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Even with a team that won two Cups and featured an exciting, offense-first style, the Penguins never sold out a full season’s worth of home games until 07-08.

Even with Sidney Crosby hurt (“retiring”?) and Evgeni Malkin out for the rest of the season, the Penguins should be able to sell out every game during the Consol Energy Center’s inaugural season. Call Penguins fans bandwagon hoppers all that you’d like, this is still an impressive streak – especially amid some shaky times for the U.S. economy.