The first order of business was Coffey
congratulating Letang on a career achievement.
Two weeks prior, Letang recorded an assist on
the lone Penguins’ goal in a 5-1 loss to Montreal.
What made the assist significant was that it was
the 441st point in Letang’s career, which allowed him
to surpass Coffey as the Penguins’ all-time leading
scorer among defensemen.
“Records are made to be broken,” Coffey said. “I
couldn’t be any prouder to have a guy like Kris take
my record over. To accumulate the amount of points
and goals that he did is a sign of consistency and a
sign of being a great player.”
Coffey, 57, needed only five seasons and 331
games to top the list at 440 points. That mark would
stand for 26 years — coincidently the age difference
between the two men. The fact that Letang needed
over double the games — 684 — to break the record
wasn’t lost upon him.
“The mark he did in three years?” Letang said
with a grin. “Just to have my name next to Paul is
crazy. It’s surreal. I remember being a kid trying to
play hockey and get to the NHL. Now to have my
name next to his, it’s crazy.”
Kristopher Allen Letang was born on Apr. 24, 1987
in Montreal, Quebec. Exactly seven months later,
Nov. 24, the Penguins acquired three-time Stanley
Cup champion defenseman Paul Coffey from the
Edmonton Oilers dynasty.
Coffey would play five seasons with the
Penguins and help the franchise win its first-ever
Cup in 1991. Coffey played nine more seasons in the
league, retiring in 2001 with a decorated career as
a four-time champion, a three-time defenseman of
the year, three-time Canada Cup champion and was
inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Three years later, Coffey returned to Pittsburgh to
be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at Mellon
Arena. While watching the game from high above in
the press box, a certain player caught his eye.
“I was with Bob Errey watching the game. I still
remember the second period the puck right at your
net,” Coffey recalled to Letang. “You picked the puck
up, made a great play and competed. I said ‘who’s
that 58?’ Errey said, ‘That’s Kris Letang.’ I said that’s
a good player.”
Some years later, Coffey was attending a
Penguins’ game as a guest in Mario Lemieux’s suite.
Letang was injured at the time and wanted to meet
one of his boyhood idols.
“I took a picture with him because I was so
excited,” Letang said.
Coffey also collected a picture. Though he had
different reasons for it at the time.
“I had to find him because my wife had a crush
on him,” Coffey laughed. “Every time I went to
Pittsburgh she said ‘get a picture with Letang.’”
But even at that first meeting, Coffey knew right
away that the two would form a lasting bond.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for him. Met him over
the years a lot. Had some real good conversations,”
Coffey said. “The most important thing for me, I loved
the game and I loved the guys that played before
me. And I respect the guys that played before me. I
found that with Kris.”
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