Longtime readers know that I moved to NYC after the 2007-08 NHL All Star break despite living all of my life in the sticks south of Pittsburgh. I immediately became a Pens fan trapped in the commercial capital of the world, far from the comforts of the Civic Arena and all the hockey staples that I hold dear.
After some digging, I found a group of now-friends who were in the same predicament as I...displaced Pittsburghers, or just Penguins fans looking to hang out with like-minded people. Following the amazing 3-OT win against the Wings in the Finals (yeah, Petr!), I penned a post (original blogspot link here) that summed up the emotions of being a former Pittsburgher having the time of his life during (arguably) one of the most exciting finishes in franchise history. With the 08-09 playoffs beginning tonight, now seems to be a good time to re-publish that piece. It was well-received in the blogosphere, so I hope you enjoy it.
Remember that this post happened during the Finals. However, re-reading it got the juices flowing, and I'm more prepared for the playoff highs and lows now than I have been at any point in this season.
Going into this series, did you think you would ever be turned off by the sight of Lord Stanley?
When NBC cut to the Cup handler removing the trophy from its case and proceeding to polish it, I almost threw up. The Pens had successfully blown a 2-goal lead, Detroit was nearly celebrating the win and I was in my own state of disbelief.
Now, let's back up for a second.
Will Leitch had an interesting chapter in his latest book, God Save the Fan. The 7th chapter in Part 4, entitled "Why a Crappy Flatiron Yuppie Bar Is Now the Closest Thing I Have to a Home," really means something more than just words on paper now. It talks of Will's struggles with being a Midwestern boy and Cardinals fan in the heart of New York City. What are the displaced fans to do when their team is making a historic run?
To make a long story short, the chapter is about Will finding a group of Cardinals fans at a random bar in the city, and making unreal bonds with other fans who share the same connection and disconnection based around a sports team. St. Louis was in the World Series, and the closest Will had to home was the random bar with other Cards fans.
First time through the book, I had to stop right there, because I thought Will was full of shit (had to do it, for you Bissinger fans). Being originally from Pittsburgh, I can tell you firsthand that nothing beats being right at the heart of huge sports happenings. The Super Bowl XL victory parade? Ridiculous. I didn't think you could get that type of excitement in another city. Everyone who watched that on tv from whatever exotic location you were in at the time...you missed out big time.
Then, as you all know, I moved to New York. Suddenly, I was a sports fan with no city, a man trapped away from all he holds dear (FSN Pittsburgh). I moved shortly after the NHL All Star game this past regular season. The Pens were streaking towards the playoffs, and I was stuck trying to find live feeds online. Even when the games started being broadcast on Versus, or MSG for the Rangers series, I stayed at the apartment, nervously pacing back and forth. I needed another fan, and the words in GSTF started ringing true in my mind. Perhaps I could find a home away from home.
Trust me, its not easy to find a Penguins bar right after dismantling the Rangers. The locals don't take kindly to you displaying the colors of the team that just eliminated their Rags.
But I found one. A great group of peoplewho rival my fandom. I can talk about Jim Paek, or the North Side or Nigro's Restaurant and people know what I mean. In New York City!
Which brings us to the epic, 3-OT game from last night. I watched a guy bloody up his knee while wearing a suit because the Pens scored and we needed to celebrate. I saw groups of people nervously pounding on the tables as the OT minutes kept passing by. I wasn't alone in my stupid antics. Everyone had the same feelings. And these are mostly displaced Pittsburghers, some out of state fans, chicks from Holland and Sweden, friends from California. Everyone was united by the Pens...
...And hatred for the Cup. Honestly, I get chills every time they show Mario on that badass NHL commercial. However, seeing the Cup last night with the Wings up 3-2 was sickening at best. I never thought I'd get so angry seeing that beautiful Cup, but it happened with a few minutes left in the third last night. And I wasn't alone. I don't know if I've ever seen a larger collective chorus of cusses then when NBC cut to the Cup handler. Just as players don't like to touch Stanley until they win it, the fans don't want to see it when the other team is close to taking the prize.
Now, I fully understand the feelings Leitch had during the Cards' World Series run. That "back-home excitement" was present in a basement pub in Manhattan. It felt like we were all in the Civic Arena. Or at least out on the lawn.
Will the Pens take the Cup, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit? As much of a homer as I am, I can't say that we'll win for sure. I'm a 100% optimist, always wanting a win, but I have to realize that we're still a ways away.
But we're still alive, and the Penguins have brought together a bunch of out-of-place Pittsburghers...
...Who really don't want to see the Cup in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (however weird that may sound).
The picture at the top was taken at a game we watched this season. We've upgraded facilities to a bigger place, but the raw emotions of a fantastic win or stunning loss still resonates like it did at the old place. I'm in there, somewhere.
And since we're playing the Flyers tonight, it's a given that this had to be posted.
TK is a beast.