I’m not gonna lie — I started watching hockey in 1999 because the guy I had a crush on was a big Penguins fan.
I was fourteen, and as uninterested in sports as humanly possible. Growing up in Pittsburgh with a die hard Steelers/Pens/Pirates fan for a dad, I knew the teams existed and some of their storied histories, but I never understood the passion, the details, the complexity.
Hockey changed that for me. What started off as a ploy to get the attention of a guy turned into a lifelong love of the game.
I remember the shocked look on my dad’s face when I asked him to flip the channel back to a game, and I remember hearing the excitement in his voice as he taught me the rules. I remember going to a dozen games a year by paying twenty bucks for a student rush ticket – at the time, the team was so bad that we were almost guaranteed section A or B seats in the old Civic Arena.
I remember Alexei Kovalev’s moonwalk, Darius Kasparaitis’ belly flop across the ice, and I remember winning the lottery that gave us Sidney Crosby.
Growing up, I fell asleep listening to Mike Lange’s play by play on late night car rides. In my early twenties, I had a chance run-in with Mario Lemieux in an elevator, and my friend introduced me to my now-husband because both of us loved the game.
I remember watching the Pens win the Stanley Cup in 2009 on an outdoor screen in my friend’s back yard and screaming with joy when they became champs again in 2016 and 2017.
So of course I’m disappointed that we’re no longer in the playoffs. I’m sad we won’t make history with a “3-peat.” But I can’t complain. I love this team. I love what they’ve accomplished and what they stand for.
And beyond the Pens, I love the sport. As much as I loathe the Caps and heckle Ovie, they’re a hell of a team and have been fighting years for this. (I’m also a bit fond of Brooks Orpik – insert heart-eyed emoji here). And hey – at least we didn’t lose to the Flyers.
This is what hockey’s all about – the fight, the blood, the sweat, and tears. The double over times, pucks ringing off the post, players skating with broken bones. The speed, the excitement, the complexity, the elation of a win, and yes, even the crush of a loss. Because without those losses, the victories would not be as sweet.
When the Pens went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and lost to the Red Wings, it was heartbreaking. But when the same two teams went to the finals again the following year and the Pens came out on top, that victory was that much sweeter because of the previous year’s failure.
I love that another team has the chance to feel that redemption and savor their victory. I love that an expansion team has had this much success in their first season, especially because their goaltender is a former Penguin.
So thank you, Pens, for another exciting season. See you next year.
And let’s go Knights!