Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Enjoy This

The Playoffs begin tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Playoffs.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Even after all of these years that term still brings a tingle.

Enjoy this tingle.

I still remember where I was on the two most important days of this new age of Penguins hockey.

Evgeni Malkin
I was wandering around campus in college all day thinking, "This Ovechkin guy is going to look amazing as a Penguin.  He's going to turn this team around."  I logged on to the Penguins message board and was... stunned.  The Capitals won the lottery.  The Penguins were stuck with... Evgeni Malkin?

Enjoy it.

The next year I was channel surfing and just happened to land on Fox Sports Carolinas.  They were showing the NHL Draft Lottery (which you can still watch here) for this Sidney Crosby guy.  It had my interest casually for a while.  It was then I realized the Penguins hadn't been called.

Another envelope.  No Penguins.  Same with the next.  And the next.  My heart was beating rapidly.  My mouth was dry.  My adrenaline was pumping.  It came down to the Ducks or the Pens and...
Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux

It was the Penguins.

Savor this.

I was at Sidney Crosby's second game in the NHL.  I watched a young, inexperienced Crosby skating on a line with Mario Lemieux.  I saw the second shoot out in NHL history.  I saw what was to be yet another disappointing season for the Penguins start in grand fashion.  After that season the Playoffs felt a long way away.

Drink this in.

Since then there has been two Cup Finals and a Cup victory.  It's easy to take this feeling for granted.  For going on three decades us Penguins fans have seen the best to skate, even with a brief crossover in the two greats (nothing disappoints me more than the Lock Out robbing us of a chance to see Mario and Geno skate together).  It's easy to think this a right.  It is not.

Soak in every moment.

Injuries have robbed Penguins fans of their greatest for lengths of time.  Mario's cancer, his back.  Sid's concussion, his jaw, his ankle.  Now arguably the best Penguins team of all time will take the ice with a healthy Sid.

Enjoy this.

Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Enjoy two sure fire Hall of Famers skating on the same line.

Enjoy a second line that so many team's top lines cannot match.

Enjoy the flowing hair of a Norris candidate (possible winner) backing an All Star Game's worth of players on the Power Play.

Enjoy a third line that will annoy and agitate even the most pious of monk.

Enjoy an inherently frustrating yet fabulous goalie whom could easily one day end up in Toronto.

Enjoy watching perhaps one of the best coaches of his generation run out a complete line up for the first time in his career.

Enjoy the stress, the strain, the torture and the pain of every second, every shift, every shot.

Enjoy every moment.

Sports are cruel.  They are fleeting.  They are the briefest of moments in time.  From player to fan, the blink of an eye is a career.

The Penguins stars are in their prime.  We've been robbed of years of their playing days.  Moments that the Penguins are looking at right now are, in the end, the rarest of all.

We as fans, as a city, as a franchise may never see this again.

Turn your TV on, crack open a pop of your choice, pull up a Primanti's, set your remote down and be ready for playoff hockey.

Most importantly don't take it for granted.  Enjoy it.

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