Warning: This is a Pens-centric post. Sorry, not sorry.
One June 21, I made my way to Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena for the 2017 NHL Awards and the Expansion Draft, a process which allowed the League’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, to pick 30 unprotected players, one from each team, in order to, well, expand. As a Penguins fan, this experience promised to be bitter-sweet. Yes, we won the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row, but fans of the team knew going into the playoffs that we would most likely lose fan favorite and long-time Pens goalie, Marc-Andre “Flower” Fleury, to the Knights this year, which, spoiler, we did.
Even though the Penguins lost Flower, I had a blast in Vegas with the hubs and my dear Pens fan friend Stacey, whom I cried, cheered and booed with at the NHL Awards show. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Vegas Golden Knights play next season and watching Flower stonewall his ex-hockey team in December. Here are the awards for my top 3 moments* of the event with a handy-dandy visual aid that includes the adventures of Sidney Crosby, World’s Best Hockey Playing Pop Funko.
*I didn’t include eating chicken and waffles at the place next door to where the Pens ended up partying in Vegas, then getting drunk on Jack and Coke while watching Letterkenny until 2am with the hubs on this list, but it was a close vote.
The Insufferable Pens Fan Prize
Ask any hockey nut, Pens fans are THE WORST. You know why? Because we have the top two players on planet earth playing hockey in our club and have won the Stanley Cup twice in a row. Joke’s on you, I don’t mind being the villain in this story, if it means folks finally start respecting my sweet, soft Captain Crosby, his Russian Alternate, Geno Malkin, and their team of misfit players.
With players like Two Time Stanley Cup Champion Phil Kessel and a slew of really great rookies from Wilkes-Barre who consistently show up and work hard on our team, yeah, Pens fans are insufferable, mainly because our team is better than your team. But seriously, what I love about Pens fans is that they are everywhere and so, so nice–as long as you’re not an bandwagoner.
On the T-Mobile magenta carpet, I had a woman compliment me on my Pens hat–which has seen me through two Cup wins–not necessarily because she liked it, but because it was dirty. “Shows you’re a real fan and not a bandwagon fan!” She told me in 112 degree weather as we both stood outside in the middle of a Las Vegas summer day waiting to see the Stanley Cup. I mean, even if the hat wasn’t dirty, that feat alone would cause me to reconsider calling anyone a “fake fan”, but then again, you know how I feel about that type of behavior. Moral of the story is, be nice, Pens fans. Nice like the two ladies from Pittsburgh who sat in front of us during the award show, shared pictures of Coach Sully from their phones and cried with us when Flower was officially traded. Not everyone is as blessed as Pens fans have been in the past few years, and trust me, just like everything else, this too shall pass. Let’s not forget that we are all just folks hanging out in horrible weather to see hockey boys.
The Booing Bettman Lifetime Achievement Award
Okay, maybe it’s not just Pens fans but hockey fans who are, indeed, the worst. Most are incredibly suspicious of newcomers to the game, are very vocal in terms of team rivalries and basically root against everything that isn’t our own team’s victory. As the various awards were being announced at this year’s show–for best defenseman, League MVP, best goalie, etcetera–I was astounded to hear people WHO PAID to be there, booing players. Crosby is on the big screen? BOO. The Maple Leaf rookies are given a spotlight? BOOOO. My companion and I were shocked that hockey fans couldn’t let go of their petty hatreds on this day of celebration. That is, until they showed Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner and the one man (besides Pierre Mcguire) who is universally despised by every hockey fan everywhere, and I gleefully booed him along with everyone else. Is this what it feels like to hate Sidney Crosby?? I thought to myself as I joined in with the thousands of haters booing a man I’ve never met. After that, I got into it, especially when that dick, Torts, won coach of the year. Look, your organization is garbage, your team is garbage, you are garbage. How’s that grit working out for you and your first round flops? Great job with Team USA during the World Cup, by the way.
Oops. Who said that? BOOOOOOOO!
Trophy Goalie, Marc-Andre “The Face of the Franchise” Fleury
When the NHL announced that Las Vegas would be getting a hockey team a year ago, they also announced an Expansion Draft, which allowed each NHL team to protect 8 players and left 22 available for VGK to pick from. That, of course, is a simple explanation for a much more complicated process that I don’t particularly want to go into detail about–but you get the gist. Pens fans knew, after Matt Murray became the #1 goalie after a stellar performance on the 2016 Cup run, that Flower would probably get traded away because he is still an amazing goalie even after 15 years with the organization, and deserves to play first string. That being said, it didn’t seem real, especially after the Pens won the Cup again, that such a wonderful dude would get traded away to the fledgling team. That is, until he stepped out onto the stage, wearing a Golden Knights jersey.
Oh Lord, my heart. Goalies are magic and deserve all the love, which is exactly what Flower received when he took the stage. It may hurt to lose the backbone of my team but to know that such a wonderful person is going to help get a new franchise off the ground makes me very happy for him and Golden Knights. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good cry when I watched the Pens tribute video, though.
xoxo C. Diva