I grew up in Appalachia and the Deep South...in the 80's and 90's. Not exactly hockey country. My family was dirt poor, and it wasn't until I was in high school that I even had this whole "cable" bit. At that time, ESPN (still a fledgling, but growing, network) was the only inspiration for hockey I had. UHA had a good club, but besides ESPN that was my only exposure to the sport. So, I played football, basketball, baseball, and adored hockey from afar.
My little brother and I fell in love with the late '80s Pens. Our first, and only team (ok, we did cheat in the '96 Cup). But, since that day to this, has been the Pens. Through the would-be dynasty of the early 90's, to the retirement of Super Mario, to the passing of the torch to Jagr, to the birth of the Caps rivalry, to the season-that-could-have-been in 99, to the historically bad early 00's teams...I have been there.
Tonight. I raised my cup, as the youngest captain ever raised his Cup. I raised my head high for (shudders) Bill Guerin's great work tonight, for (shudders) Gonchar's goal in Game 3, for Talbot's hard fought lasers that MADE our victory possible tonight.
This Finals was, much like my allegiance, improbable.
Talbot, Gonchar, Scuderi, Letang, Andre-Fluery, Orpik, Satan. If you asked any Pens fan "what are your chances of winning the Cup if those are your stars?", they would have said,"insert explitive"....like I did.
But, as improbable as my allegiance...firmly in football country (Roll Tide!!!)...the improbable was manifest, and heart beat talent 4 times out of 7.
As improbable as it was, to see me bang my fists on the table for seven nights in Omaha, it happened. To see me weep openly for a bereft franchise saved a decade ago by Sir Mario's return, and again five years ago by his benefactory...it happened!!!
And, all I can say, through the beer-foggery is "Go Pens!"