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The Early Days

The first segment of our history is finally ready for review. Thanks to all those who contributed, specifically Marta at the Boston City Archives and Tim Hoffman. Let us know if we're missing anything or you'd like to contribute a story from the early days.

 

In 1995 a small group of fans began gathering informally at the Sports Depot in Allston to watch their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Back in those days only a handful of Boston-area establishments had NFL Sunday Ticket, which was still in its infancy and only available via cutting edge DirectTV satellite dishes. As a result, “The Depot” became home for fan groups cheering on several out of market teams, most notably the Dallas Cowboys, whose fans often commandeered a train caboose that had been turned into a small event room.



Parking lot at The Sports Depot in the late 1990s

But back to that group of Steelers fans. Most of the original group were from the 'Burgh, but had moved to the Boston area for one reason or another. They included professionals, artists, doctors, college students, and at least one rabbi. Their numbers continued to swell over the course of the season as Neil O'Donnell and Yancey Thigpen led the team all the way to the Super Bowl. As many I’m sure will remember, the season ended with a loss to the Cowboys, an especially difficult result for those at the Depot who watched nearby Cowboys fans celebrate a championship. The raucous turnout that day was an early indication though of what the group might become with a bit more structure and leadership.




Enter Tim Hoffman, a relative newcomer who was determined to put the small Pittsburgh outpost on the map. In 1996, Tim connected with leadership of the Black and Gold Brigade, an unofficial Steelers fan club that started in California in ‘87 and quickly took off nationally. With the blessing of Brigade leadership, Tim formally launched a Boston chapter at the beginning of the 1996 Steelers season.


In the following years, news spread via word of mouth and the emergent World Wide Web. The fan group continued to grow as Y2K came and went. Ultimately, it was another new technology that led to a major transformation for the group of Steelers fans that gathered every Sunday at an old rail depot on the outskirts of Boston to cheer on the black and gold



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