Thursday, June 9, 2016

You only live once

Tonight, Adam and I will be glued to the TV as the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to clinch a Stanley Cup championship against the San Jose Sharks.

As I've said many times in the past - if my beloved hometown Blackhawks can't be there to win it, there is definitely no other team I'd rather see win the Cup than Adam's hometown Penguins.
I'm hoping to see my favorite Penguins player, Olli Maatta, lifting the Cup tonight.
Go get 'em, Olli!!!
With this timing in mind, I am finally recapping our last-minute Pittsburgh visit to watch Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 on Memorial Day.

As I shared previously here, Adam and I were in the DC area over Memorial Day weekend. We were originally scheduled to fly back to Chicago that Monday night. Adam and I talked about the idea of taking a side trip to Pittsburgh for Monday's game, but he thought it would be crazy. I convinced him that we should both still pack our jerseys... just in case.
Then, on Saturday night, Adam and I were at dinner with our friends Lauren and Brian. I saw Adam's phone light up with about 50 text messages. This must be important. Sure enough, our friend Chris had snagged face-value tickets to Game 1. He needed to know quickly if we wanted them. Holy cow!!!

What were the considerations? The last time the Penguins played in the Stanley Cup Finals was 7 years ago. Each of the last three times the Blackhawks were in the Finals, I wasn't able to get tickets unless I was willing to take on a second mortgage. It was only a 4-hour drive from DC to Pittsburgh, we had family in Pittsburgh to stay with, and it was a holiday weekend. You only live once.

To me, this was a total no-brainer. To sum it up:
Adam and I went on a mad scramble to alter our plans. After we both secured the time away from our respective offices on Tuesday, we changed our airline itineraries to fly home from Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. (My sincere gratitude goes out to Southwest Airlines for their no-fee change policy, which has saved my life many times over the years!) We made sure Adam's mom and stepdad were okay with us staying with them on Monday night (not that there was any doubt). Finally, we rented a car and on Monday afternoon we made the 200-mile trek from DC to Pittsburgh.

Whew!!! Deep breath!!!

[Now shifting into picture recap mode.]

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we took the scenic route:
Skyline view from Mount Washington

Afterwards, we met up with Chris and our other friend, Brad. We had pre-game dinner at Diamond Market Grill in Market Square. Check out these gargantuan onion rings we got for the table. At first glance I thought they were doughnuts.
Chris with the platter of mutant onion rings
After dinner, we headed over to the Consol Energy Center. The Penguins host outdoor viewing parties for fans without tickets. This was the scene outside of the arena:
I bet fans have literally been camping out for days in anticipation of tonight's game!

Here's a picture of the four of us right before we entered the stadium. Check out our assortment of jerseys:
From L to R: Adam, me, Brad, and Chris
The pregame show:
The singing of the national anthem:
Game on!
In-game seats:
Max Talbot, one of my favorite Penguins from a few years ago, was in attendance. You can read more about him here. In short, he was the hero in the Penguins' Cup-clinching Game 7 victory against Detroit in 2009. Max received a very nice video tribute and standing ovation:
As you might expect, the crowd was completely fired up. It was by far the loudest decibel level I'd ever heard at the Consol. In addition to the usual chants of "Let's go Pens!" or "We want the Cup!" or "Murray! Murray!" (in reference to rookie goaltender Matt Murray), the crowd also chanted "H-B-K! H-B-K!" (in reference to the Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel line). Each time the Penguins scored, everyone exploded with delirium; folks jumped, danced, and high-fived or hugged anyone they could reach.

All fans had been given gold t-shirts to wear, plus gold towels to wave. It was a sea of gold everywhere the eye could see:
Late in the third period, the score was tied and it looked like the game was going to head into overtime. The tension in the crowd was palpable. Suddenly, with just over 2.5 minutes remaining in regulation, Nick Bonino scored, sending the building into an absolute frenzy.

Check out this insane Punjabi radio broadcast call of Bonino's goal (I'm not kidding about the Punjabi):
"Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, Boninooooooo!"

The ecstasy was shortlived. Less than 30 seconds on the game clock later, the Penguins got called for a penalty. The Sharks pulled their goaltender while the Penguins were shorthanded. This ensued into one of the most nervewracking 6-on-4 penalty kills I've ever seen. For Game of Thrones fans, a man behind us was screaming, "HOLD THE DOOR! HOLD THE DOOR!" It was complete mayhem. In the end...

Penguins win! Penguins win!
The Gulf Tower with the Penguins logo projected onto it.
The red lights mimic the Penguins' goal light; the lights are illuminated when the Penguins score.

Many thanks to Chris for working his magic to find those game tickets!!! May 30th was Adam's and my 6th anniversary, and what a way to celebrate. =)

Here is hoping there will be even more bedlam in the city of Pittsburgh tonight!


  1. I'd say go for it! If I had a chance to see Detroit in the playoffs, I'd do everything I could to make it happen. I don't like the Sharks, so I'd be just fine with the Penguins winning it.

    1. Yay, Lesley! You are a diehard hockey fan, too, so I know you would go to great lengths to watch the Wings. So exciting to hear about the Hockeytown 5K you shared today, too! One of these days we'll have to sit down and talk in more detail about your thoughts on the Sharks, et al.

      Let's go Pens! =)


    1. BEST ANNIVERSARY EVER, indeed!!! Does this make up for the kilts or does Chris still have more yet on his plate?????

  3. I did not realize that there were Punjabi hockey announcers. His call of the goal is great! Anyway, it sounds like a once-in a lifetime type of game. You guys must have been thrilled to be there!

    1. It came as a huge surprise to me when I learned about it, too! Apparently Hockey Night in Canada has a huge following of Punjabi-speakers. Outside of Canada, who would have ever guessed, right???? Thank you - the game was an awesome experience. We were especially glad they won, after going through that much effort to be there. =)

  4. Oh my gosh, this seriously sounds like the coolest experience ever. Getting to watch a Stanley Cup final game where one of your favorite teams is playing in their home arena - that's the stuff dreams are made of. I'm so glad the whole situation worked out for you, and that the Penguins won the game you attended! Talk about a once in a lifetime experience!

    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

    1. Thank you so much, Bethany! You hit the nail on the head - we were talking about how much of a bummer it would have been if we had put forth all that effort to be there, only to see them lose! When the Penguins played Detroit in the Finals, Adam drove out there to watch them and they LOST. He said it was a really long drive home afterwards! So it was as much just pure relief as much as anything else that they won this time. =)

  5. Looks like an amazing experience and so awesome that you got to see a win!

    1. Thank you so much, Kayla! It was awesome and a huge relief to see the win after all the efforts we exerted to be there. =)

  6. That is so awesome you got to go! And good thing you had packed your jerseys ;)

    I think it's really cool they show the game outside too - I bet it's a lot of fun to watch from there!

    1. Thanks so much, Kim! I will always remember the saying from my Girl Scout days to always be prepared. =)

      OMG - I can only imagine what the crowd must be like watching outside. I wish they'd do something similar in Chicago for Hawks playoff games!!!

  7. So fun!! I honestly forgot that hockey was still going on... hmph lol

    1. LOL - I totally understand. Once the Blackhawks finished their season, it seems like all Chicagoans immediately turned their attention to baseball. Sigh! =D

  8. Thank you so much, Kelly! You are absolutely right - I think hockey is the most amazing, exciting, action-packed game to watch in person. It's way better live than on TV! And there is NOTHING like playoff hockey. YAY for the Pens being your 2nd favorite team! One of these days we'll have to sit down and talk more about the Avs and their history - I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on Patrick Roy. =) Bummer to hear that you had a bad experience with a Sharks fan before, too - there are some very obnoxious ones out there, and it's the worst. What happened with the fan?

    Let's go Pens!!! =)

  9. Replies
    1. Our household has dual hockey citizenship, but you know the Blackhawks will ALWAYS be my number 1! I will NEVER root for anyone above the Hawks, EVER.

      FWIW - Adam has also gotten some grief from his Pittsburgh contingency for wearing a Blackhawks jersey to Hawks games. It works both ways. =)

  10. That fan sounds like a jerk! I am really, really sorry you came into contact with someone so nasty. I've had similar experiences at the United Center with visiting Rangers and Flyers fans, too, and it's left a REALLY bad taste in my mouth. I completely agree with you on visiting fans' protocol. They are certainly welcome to root their own team on all they want. But when they start being disrespectful to the home team and home crowd, that's unbelievably rude and obnoxious.

    On a similar note - I have traveled to watch my teams where the home fans put me through some VICIOUS abuse, even though all I did was root on my own team. So sadly, the disrespect can go both ways. =(