A hospital attendant rolled me down the hallway into a spacious physical therapy room. Fresh off of spinal fusion surgery, I waited my turn for a physical therapist to work with me on the simple things: getting out of a chair, walking, and climbing stairs. After such a surgery, which includes cutting through muscle, bone grafts, and rods, every patient requires daily PT post-operation.
As I waited, I scanned the room, seeing that I was the youngest of the patients by many, many moons. Almost prophetically, an elderly lady across the room caught my eye and blurted out something to the effect of, “Son, do you like the Penguins?”
Here we were, in Jefferson Hospital, post-surgery, and hockey was still on both our minds. When she asked the question, I nodded and affirmed my fandom. She went on a tangent about how she doesn’t like when opposing players go after Sidney Crosby.
I could only grin. Yep, Pittsburgh is all in.
Later that evening, splayed out on a hospital bed and pumped full of painkillers, I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins put away the Ottawa Senators and advance to their second straight Stanley Cup final.
It took two overtimes, and the painkillers had faded away by then, but this a team a fan has to stick with. When Chris Kunitz slung a knuckler past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, I lifted two contented arms and listened to the patients in other rooms giving their celebratory yelps.
Last year’s Stanley-Cup Winning team was one anyone could get behind; they starched teams with nauseating speed and loaded talent.
Much of that same speed and talent remains on the roster for this year’s playoff run, but the Pens have had to scrape and claw back into the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins don’t dominate—they outlast, they scrap, they grind.
And yes, they still win.
Character doesn’t seem to matter to sports fans until it does. Character has to matter when a team suffers a trauma-unit roomful of injuries. Look at the names: Kris Letang, Matt Murray, Trevor Daley, Conor Sheary, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Justin Shultz, Trevor Daley, Chad Ruhwedel, and Carl Hagelin.
Statisticians can’t measure intangibles or character, but there has to be a significant amount in that Penguins locker room. Their talent, speed, and execution win the games, yet their confidence and character has allowed them to toss out subpar performances and just play, as Head Coach Mike Sullivan demands.
This team has just played its way into its second straight Stanley Cup Final, and one has to wonder that, if we do take home back-to-back Stanley Cups, are we living in the golden age of Penguins hockey?
Moments like the one I watched from a hospital bed make me think so.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.