I promise that this will be the last fan piece I will write this season, barring any extreme circumstances of course. However, Nationwide Arena might as well have been called Mellon Arena last night.
The amount of Pittsburgh fans in Columbus was astounding. Even Columbus Blue Jackets’ head coach Ken Hitchcock said so. In Dave Molinari’s recap of the game in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he quote Hitchcock saying …
“The building wasn’t loud enough because we had folks in the wrong-colored sweaters here,” he said. “Too many of them.”
No kidding. The Jackets set a franchise record for home attendance in a single game last night, with 19,167 packed into Nationwide Arena. It sure sounded and looked like half of those people were rooting for the opposition.
I’ve never been prouder.
Going to school in Ohio and dealing with the sports fans here definitely added to my interest in the game. I deal with obnoxious Ohio State fans on a daily basis. However, barely any know anything about hockey. To lose this game to undeserving fans was out of the question.
The minute I turned the TV on, though, and saw how many Penguins fans were there I didn’t care anymore. The Pens could have been shutout and it wouldn’t have mattered. The real fans showed up and hopefully taught people in Columbus a little lesson on how to treat your hockey team and how to be hockey fans.
But the Pens didn’t disappoint. Three goals in about 3:30 at the midway point of the third period changed everything. Those fans from Pittsburgh that traveled to Columbus on a work night to cheer on the Pens got what they deserved.
Sergei Gonchar fired a slapper from the point past Columbus goaltender Steve Mason on the power play and you would have thought the Jackets just scored. Watching on TV, the stands erupted. Arms and bodies flew up out of their seats and in to the TV screen. Cheers about as loud as can be tried to drown out Paul Steigerwald’s call of the goal.
It was just the beginning.
The second goal, by Pascal Dupuis right infront of the night, got the Pittsburgh faithful even more riled up. It couldn’t have been written any better. As Dupuis slid across the ice, face-down as in flight like Superman, the FSN cameras cut to the stands. The shot was down the ‘sideline’ and all you could see was black and gold and baby blue in celebration.
Now it was 3-2 and my roommates from upstairs, all from Ohio and none of which care about hockey, joined me on the first floor of my house to see why I was screaming so loud. My roommate Zach said it sounded as if I was being murdered. He came down to see if I was okay. He stayed to witness Max Talbot send me into an even further state of elation.
A scrum along the boards eventually led to Evgeni Malkin with the puck, skating to what looked to be an attempt for a wrap-around. Not the case. Malkin threw a behind-the-back pass to Max Talbot who squeaked the puck under Mason’s left arm.
The score was tied, 3-3. I was out of control.
But I was out of control because the fans at the game were out of control. I got a text message from my friend Megan before the game that said …
“Every section is covered in Pens fans. This is beautiful.”
I could see it now. The fans were out of control. They stayed standing even after the puck was dropped to re-start play. Chants of “Let’s Go Pens!” drowned out the Columbus contigent.
So sure, we lost. We earned a point, though, which is huge. But honestly, none of that matters.
Any claims that the Penguins fanbase is this or that, or anything negative are worthless. It was on display last night that Penguins fans are some of the best in hockey.
If you were there, comment. BE HEARD …
Chris | PPT