This post wasn’t supposed to come so early. It was only to be written after the Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2012 Stanley Cup. And, right, the Pens aren’t out of it yet, but they are down 3-0 to the Philadelphia Freakin’ Flyers. And, you are right, they could have a gut (and heart) check to come back blazing Wednesday night. Stranger things have happened. (See: Boston Red Sox, 2004 or watch the movie Fever Pitch — and don’t go to any costume birthday parties Wednesday night.)
Patterson and I went to our first NHL game in February 2011 — the Pens at the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Pens lost. Our second game was in Pittsburgh for the last game of the season in April. Pens beat the Devils to make it into the playoffs. We were officially hockey fans, specifically Pittsburgh Penguins fans, and it was going to get extreme.
The evolution of our hockey love is kind of a long and arduous story, but it goes a little something like this: Local minor league hockey coach’s wife starts working with Patterson in Fall of 2010 > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife doesn’t like to sit alone at games > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife gives us tickets to the games > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife gives us the behind the scenes scoop of the real hockey action > A sickly afternoon marathon with HBO 24/7 featuring the Pens and Caps takes it to the next level > Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours.
After the misguided dismissal of local minor league hockey coach at the end of last season (and pretty much the entire team, for that matter), we went to a few games this season, but it wasn’t the same. Good job on those dismissals, by the way. We went from just missing the playoffs last year to being dead last (with a bullet!) in the league this year. Best laid plans, I suppose.
We turned to the NHL to keep our hockey buzz alive. We went to seven games and had a 5-2 record. I’m starting to think we should have shown up for the playoffs.
Saturday, November 12 — Pens at Carolina Hurricanes (L)
We had hoped to see Sidney Crosby back after being out for nine long months, but we were a week or so too early. Highlights included sitting beside the bench, good naturally harassing the security guy at the end of our row and meeting the Pens Knitting Lady and her husband (who takes amazing photos of the games, by the way.)
Saturday, December December 3 — Pens at Carolina Hurricanes
Sid was back and it was the first time the entire Pens team was healthy and on the ice after a litany of injuries. It didn’t last long though — Jordan Staal was nailed in the face with a puck, right in front of his parents, and spewed blood all over the ice. I swooned, and not in a good way. Highlight of the game was discovering that sitting behind the goal is pretty dang cool.
Sunday, January 15 — Pens at Tampa Bay Lightning
Good grief, this trip started out as the Journey to Hell. The drive down was dull and slow. We arrive at our hotel to find it covered in feathers. Patterson is highly allergic to feathers. She turned a weird color and oozed from every pore. It was gross. And she still had to haggle with the front desk to be released from our reservation. (This was after they claimed to have hypoallergenic feathers. No joke.) We moved to the lovely Marriott that was, hands down, the best hotel of the trip. We walked past Tyler Kennedy as we were leaving Precinct Pizza. Now, poor Tyler Kennedy has taken a bit of a beating from me because he’s the only non-beautiful kid on the Penguins. I mean, tell me he doesn’t resemble one of the pigs from Angry Birds. Yeah, see, I told you. But let me tell you, put TK in a suit and set him out in the Florida sunshine and that kid sparkles. I kid you not. We were still giddy when we watched Geno score a hat trick later that day. [Hockey Bucket List Checkoff: Witness a Hat Trick]
Saturday, February 16 — Pens at Philadelphia Flyers
I was slightly afraid of walking into the Wells Fargo Center with my Crosby jersey. Flyers fans are, um, serious. Happy to say we made it out alive with only mildly hostile razzing from disheartened Flyers fans. We beat them pretty squarely. Further convinced that behind the goal seats are the way to go.
Sunday, March 18 — Pens at Philadelphia Flyers (L)
Hockey insanity. We decided that since we had to drive by Philadelphia on the way home from Newark, we should stop in for the game. Our seats were behind the penalty box. That game was intense. Pens lost in overtime with .9 seconds left on the clock — there is a point in front of that 9 and that’s less than a second. The crowd was crazy. I had to tell Patterson to stop talking about James Neal’s hair because we were on the verge of being beat up. In fact, an older lady in a Flyer’s jersey had her husband watch us as we walked to our car because she feared for our safety. We were so dejected by the loss, we didn’t even realize we were in harm’s way. On the way out, I almost bought a Max Talbot Flyer’s t-shirt because I loved Max as a Penguin. I wanted our relationship to continue. But he switched sides and it’s time to let him go. Good-bye, Max. It’s for good this time. [Hockey Bucket List Checkoff: Overtime Game]
Saturday, April 6 — Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh
It’s officially tradition. Our second annual last game of the season in Pittsburgh. We ponied up for glass seats and it was totally worth it. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to the third row.
Our own version of NHL Awards:
Best Venue: Consol Energy Center
Nicest Event Staff: Carolina Hurricanes
Best Fans: I can’t believe I’m saying this… Philadelphia Flyers. Sure, they are homicidal, but they know hockey.
Best Restaurant: Marra’s in Philadelphia with the best buss boy ever, Mario. Honorable Mention: Jerome Bettis Grille 36 in Pittsburgh
Best Hotel: Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina
On Tap for Next Season:
Washington, DC to see the Pens play the Capitals
New York City to see the Pens play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Boston, MA to see the Pens play the Bruins
The first and last home games in Pittsburgh
Every game the Pens play against the Hurricanes
But this season isn’t quite over yet…