Hello, Penguins fans. I'm Steve Dangle. Most of the time, you might know me as that psychopathic Leafs fan who yells and screams and occasionally praises the aesthetic and practical qualities of Sidney Crosby's buttocks.
In July when the Leafs traded amazing Phil Kessel for future Art Ross-winner Kasperi Kapanen, Mike Darnay got so caught up in Kesselmania that he made a bet.
Less than 11 months later...
And let me tell you, I've never seen somebody so stoked to lose a bet.
Sometimes losing a bet is amazing. pic.twitter.com/HQwH31oRY4— Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) May 30, 2016
Now I already wrote about my experience in Pittsburgh on Sportsnet.ca. I would highly recommend you read that as it is very good and impresses my boss with delicious clicks. That's actually how we pay for things in Canada, by the way.
"I'll have a medium double double coffee, please."
"Sure that'll be aboot 850 clicks, eh."
This post is a little different. I wanted to write to you, the fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, specifically.
First of all, you have an amazing city. Tour guide Mike, who picked me up at the airport like the above-and-beyond gem that he is, told me I had to check out the reveal of Pittsburgh once you exit the tunnel. It's something to behold. It's probably nothing special to you if you've experienced it all your life but it really is a random metropolis in the middle of the woods.
Market Square is really cool. We have something like that in Toronto called Dundas Square. It's getting better and it's on the right track but it's trying too hard to be Time Square. Toronto is often wrongly compared to New York. It's a giant city but it's still Canada. Something that's as authentic and personable and genuinely as local-feeling as Market Square is what cities should strive to have. What better place to put cheese and other terrible things in your body?
Stuffing my face in Market Square! pic.twitter.com/KV610Df9Fh— Steve Dangle Glynn (@Steve_Dangle) May 30, 2016
Also *subtle shade at Toronto-based newspaper*
I was so happy to meet so many people I regularly speak to online. Mike was a great tour guide the whole 24-hour whirlwind.
Leah Blasko was nice enough to stop by, hang out for a while, and most importantly, let me steal her portable phone charger for like two hours.
The combination of Mike, Leah, and Steve the Yinzer, who made me feel right and Steve home, was funny. I kept trying to tell them stories and they already knew many of them from my podcast. That sort of thing always amazes me. It's not like Toronto and Pittsburgh are worlds apart or anything but it still always catches me off guard to learn the reach of a silly little podcast on the Internet.
Ashley Chase was another fantastic tour guide. We're always talking about this weird little thing called sports media together and she even said "Boz Lightyear to the rescue" on live television in Pennsylvania when Tyler Bozak scored a goal in a highlight pack against the Penguins. She showed Mike and I the best place to put beer into our bodies and even gave me a ride to the airport the next day. Is this how Pittsburgh works? Like do you not need Uber because everyone just gives everyone else free rides?
Plus - WHEELING NAILERS MERCH!
I mostly cheered for the Penguins in this game. Mike gave me a shirt and when somebody pays for your ticket you where whatever damn shirt they hand you. I couldn't get 100% behind the Penguins because, uh, reasons...
Maybe it's just because it was Game 1 or maybe it's because the Penguins don't exactly have much of a rivalry with the San Jose Sharks (yet), but I've never seen a home fanbase treat road fans so well.
This was the meanest thing I saw towards Sharks fans.
And it was followed up with a laughing, smiling picture.
I can't imagine it's the same when Flyers fans are in town but Penguins fans were great to Sharks fans for Game 1, even shaking hands with a bunch of them after the final buzzer. Then again, it's easy to be that welcoming when your team is three wins shy of the Stanley Cup. What's that like, by the way?
Mike didn't really notice this but I came really close to crying before opening face-off. I've been to a few NHL arenas and different buildings have different vibes. TD Garden in Boston has crazy fans for example. There was something different, something so incredible and infectiously positive, about the Penguins fans at Consol. Your team was competing on hockey's grandest and most-exciting stage and you knew it. It's easy for a Leafs fan to think fans of another team are spoiled. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin - like at what point do they just make the Art Ross a Penguins logo? You all seem to understand that though. What's more is that everyone seemed to grasp how special, how rare, the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup is. Penguins fans talk about 2009 like JFK was still President. It was seven years ago, guys. Doesn't matter. Everybody got it - this doesn't happen everyday.
What also got me emotionally was that this was my first ever NHL playoff game. The first playoff game I saw for any professional sport was Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada's gem in Game 5 against the Kansas City Royals last October. We love sports in Toronto and playoff tickets would be hard to come by if every team made it to the playoffs every season, so imagine how hard they are to get when pretty much every team is either in a playoff drought or gets swept by the stupid Washington Wizards. What I guess I'm trying to say is thanks for Jose Bautista. Wait no that's not what I - I mean definitely thank you - but that's not what I -
Tell you what, Pittsburgh Penguins fans - thank you. You made my first Stanley Cup Playoff game so positive and so memorable. My one final request is you don't hold this photo against me when the Leafs play the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final next season.