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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon
< Philadelphia - Not that sunny, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pittsburgh - For some hockey (why not?), 2017

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 20/12/2017 08:17:47
Updated by Joel Dixon at 09/08/2018 03:14:11

Getting over to Pittsburgh from Australia involves a long flight and many dollarydoos, so we planned to attend as many Pittsburgh games as possible while there - giving us the best chance to experience a hattrick for the good guys and to watch Fleury playing in his final year with the Pens. So after returning from Philadelphia we had tickets to catch two further Penguins games, one against the New Jersey Devils and one hosting Jaromir Jagr's Florida Panthers.

For the Devils game I took a peek at the ticket exchange website and a pair of seats jumped out at me. There were two tickets available on the glass, directly behind the Penguins bench. Of course, the price was exorbitant but it wasn't too much trouble to convince myself that such an extravagance was justified for the chance to watch legends of the game at ice level. When we sat at our seats, it was very clear that the cost was worth it - we had an incredible view of the entire Penguins bench.

Literal Front Row
Two Penguin heroes, Chris Kunitz and Rick Tocchet, unfortunately no longer with the Penguins this year

To be honest, the seats did not give the best view of the on-ice play unless the puck was on our side and directly in front of us. I had to look upwards at the scoreboard for most of the time to actually see what was happening in the game. We did get an awesome view of a Kessel goal from the wing (my favourite type) but it wasn't the offensive plays that I loved the most, it was the players behavior on the bench that intrigued me.

Sid And A Kid
Hmmm, this reminds me of another fantastic hockey-playing pair

Watching Kessel hunched over gasping for air directly before getting back out there and scoring that goal, seeing Crosby laughing along with Sheary after he missed an easy opportunity and hearing Hornqvist fuming mad after being pulled off the Power Play had me mesmerised for the entire time. We also got a great feeling for how huge the players were, especially when Ian Cole delivered a giant hit right in front of us. The mass and power speeding around along with cannon-like shots makes me wonder why injuries aren't even more prevalent. In the end the Penguins won by two goals and I was a very happy fan (even though Fleury wasn't in net for the game).

Glove Bump
Glove bumps following one of Crosby's two goals for the game

Talking To
Coach Sullivan during one of his numerous calm chats with the referee

With a day of between hockey games, we decided to keep things relaxed and had a pretty lazy time with a nice sleep in the next morning. We somehow found enough willpower to get ourselves out of the hotel and checkout a few of the lower-priority activities on our "things to do" list. I'm glad we did, as we both had an enjoyable day. We started by heading out to Canton Avenue, the "steepest street in the United States" and steepest in the world according to some (even though I'm pretty sure the New Zealand one has it beat). My first thought when arriving was "wow, that's a steep street" followed quickly by "but I kind of expected steeper". Pao and I took turns running up and down the incline as I'm sure those that live nearby bemoaned yet another stupid tourist. Canton Avenue probably only made the list because it was very close to a unique restaurant - Beto's Pizza - known for serving pizza with cold toppings. I was a little surprised by how quickly I got used to the crazy meal in front of me - a warm base, warm sauce and sausage with cold cheese, onions, peppers - and when the cheese started to warm and melt slightly it was pretty incredible. Probably not my preferred style of pizza going forward, but certainly a worthwhile experience and something that I still occasionally crave.

Steep, but not overly long

Pizza, but not as you know it

For the afternoon we headed to South Side to walk around and decided to catch a movie at the cinemas (another one of those non-unique, mundane experiences). Part of the local culture that we witnessed was incredibly rude people in the movies - much worse than things I would complain about in Melbourne. The best example was when a phone rang for the person sitting a few rows in front of me. Well, the example wasn't when the guy's phone rang, it was actually when he answered his phone and shamelessly carried on a conversation at a normal volume. Those around him didn't seem to surprised by this behavior, surely this can't be a frequent occurrence?

On our way home we decided on Five Guys Burgers and Fries for dinner - pretty much exclusively for a YouTuber's review and subsequent viral autotuned song. The burger wasn't quite as delicious as my all-time number one favourite burger in Japan, but it was pretty dayum close! The service was fantastic and I think this shows a similar amount of care put towards cooking the burgers, fries and hotdogs - as they were all perfectly-made and tasted amazing. I also had the best shake of the trip in Five Guys, I think they had real banana and strawberries instead of relying on simple flavouring. On top of it all they also had the peak example of man's technological innovations, a Coke fountain dispenser where you could create your own a beveridge with unparalleled customisations. I had a tasty lime Coke, but it took me a while to finally decide on my creation.

The meat just absorbs all the space, and all the air possible in your throat

I can now see how unoriginal I was, with Coke Lime the front and center suggestion

We slept off our fantastic burger meal and did almost nothing before the final hockey game on the schedule - an afternoon game against the Panthers. This was going to be a special game for me, as it gave me a chance to watch one of my favourite Penguins from our first two cups - Jaromir Jagr. Almost more myth than man, Jagr was a Penguins hero right through the lean years post-Mario Lemieux retirement, until he started "dying alive" and even Mario's surprise comeback wasn't enough as he requested a trade - heading off to the division rival Washington Capitals. The Penguins fans were quick to boo him whenever he returned to play in Pittsburgh, especially after he later double-down on the apparent disrespect by teasing fans (and Mario himself) with the idea of coming back to play in Pittsburgh after leaving the KHL before changing his mind and going to the bigger division rival Philadelphia Flyers (for more money of course). Even after his questionable loyalty I've always enjoyed watching Jagr play, and it seemed he and Mario buried the hatchet during the NHL's 100-year celebrations.

Lock No More
You can see Jagr skating by the Penguins bench here. Unfortunately his hair is no longer what it once was, otherwise I wouldn't need to point out his location

We chose seats on the side that the visitors attack twice so that we would have the best chance to see Jagr's offensive play. When we found out Fleury was the starting goaltender for the game I was ecstatic, as we were down his end of the ice for two periods - able to watch him up-close and be part of the Fleury cheer squad. One of the first things I noticed was that no-one was booing Jagr for this game, it seems after 16 years it just took a few comments in the press from Mario regarding his contributions to the history of the Penguins for the fans to give him a pass. The video tribute he received was pretty classy by the team, and I was proud to be a part of the standing ovation he truly deserved.

It didn't take long for the Penguins to take control of the game, or more specifically Crosby as he scored two great goals right in front of us. I told Pao this was it - bringing our hats to every game would finally pay off - and I was almost in disbelief when he did finally score that third goal. My hat was off my head and I took a second to concentrate as our seats were near the ice, but certainly not as close as the Devils game. I grabbed the brim and spun the hat towards the ice with all my strength as I watched it barely clear the glass before resting on the playing field. The opportunity to be part of the age-old tradition was amazing, and the fact it was my favourite player was scoring the three goals (natural and all even strength for that matter) made it that much sweeter. I took a second to savour the moment before thinking about the next unlikely achievement that the Penguins could provide to me - a shutout.

Hat No More
Off goes my hat...

I've never attended a game in which the Penguins shutout their opponent, with the score 4-0 and Fleury locked in I started to consider the possibility. Save after save as each minute ticked down - I was getting more and more confident that Fleury would deliver the goods. I couldn't believe it when the final horn sounded, but I was quick to join the chants of "Fleury, Fleury, Fleury!" as I appreciated not only his outstanding performance that night, nor the perfect hockey game I was able to witness, but the extraordinary gift that Marc-Andre Fleury gave the Pittsburgh Penguins over a career of excellence.

Standing Room Only
... and PoP goes my heart!

This is the 11th in the Joel Goes To Camp series
Game 1 - Pittsburgh Arrival - Border Security Magic, 2017Game 2 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 1 (Registration and Penguins Stadium Series)Game 3 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 2 (Contract Signing, Training and Game)Game 4 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 3 (Outdoor Game, Injury, Dinner and Drinks)Game 5 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 4 and 5 (Final Games)Game 6 - Chicago - Blackhawks, Bulls and a bean, 2017Game 7 - Pittsburgh Return - Fleury, Fleury, Fleury!, 2017Game 8 - New York - Third time's a charmed lamp, 2017Game 9 - Miami, Naples and Tampa - Beaches, Babe and a Baby Sloth, 2017Game 10 - Philadelphia - Not that sunny, 2017Game 11 - Pittsburgh - For some hockey (why not?), 2017 Back to Top

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Pittsburgh Return - Fleury, Fleury, Fleury!, 2017
Chicago - Blackhawks, Bulls and a bean, 2017
Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 4 and 5 (Final Games)
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Marc-Andre Fleury still giving high fives to his injured buddy
Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 2 (Contract Signing, Training and Game)

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