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Sean Leahy

Year in the life: Through the eyes of a Penguins fan

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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We may be writers here at Puck Daddy, but in the end, we're also fans. Die-hard fans. I'm the resident Pittsburgh Penguins fan, The Two-Line Pass is a Calgary Flames homer, and Dmitry is a fan of the Russian national team. And Wysh? Well, despite being pegged as biased toward every other team but his own on a daily basis (just read the comments or the PD mailbox), is a New Jersey Devils fan.

Of all the teams followed here, my Penguins outlasted them all. While I've tried to not write about the Penguins too often in my time at Puck Daddy, this, for today at least, is my moment to let out the emotions of a roller-coaster season that ended the best way possible.

After the jump is a diary of a season for this Pittsburgh Penguins fan. The ups, downs, and the rejoicing of a Stanley Cup championship after a 17-year wait.

June 4, 2008. Mellon Arena is quiet, save for the Red Wings fans in attendance. The Stanley Cup is being skated around the ice as the Pittsburgh Penguins are dejectedly watching from their bench. It's the first true heartbreak in the game of hockey for many of the Penguins. It's an image many of them will take with them into the 2008-09 season. I'm too depressed to drink. The journey that began way back in October is over and without the big reward at the end. As much as a National Hockey League season takes out of its players, the fans feel the pain as well.

July 3, 2008. The news breaks: Marian Hossa(notes) signs a one-year deal with Detroit. Shocking. Not just because it seemed as if the Penguins had a good shot, but because the term was so short and he spurned Pittsburgh for the team they had just lost to. I'm already hearing the boo's from Mellon Arena Hossa's way in my head during Detroit's visit.

Nov. 11, 2008. Jordan Staal(notes) just pick-pocketed Pavel Datsyuk(notes) and then fed Ruslan Fedotenko(notes) for the game-winning goal in overtime to cap a memorable comeback against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg's(notes) power-play goal early into the third period to give Detroit a three-goal lead at 5-2 was enough for me to start drinking my Magners a bit faster. Pittsburgh would extend their winning streak to seven games before the hinges started coming off.

Jan. 14. Alexander Semin(notes) visits Mellon Arena for the first time since asking, "What's so special about Sidney Crosby?" The much-hyped game turns into a dud as Washington wins 6-3 to give the Penguins their eighth loss in their last 10 games. Doubt is slowly starting to knock at the door regarding the season. Is this team, who lost so much in the offseason, slowly slipping out of the playoff picture for good?

Feb. 15. Sunk to a new low. It was the day after an embarrassing loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. Penguins Nation was at an all-time low. Many fans were readying themselves for a spring without playoff hockey. Later that night word came down that Pittsburgh had fired head coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with Dan Bylsma, who had been the head coach with their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. "Wait, who the hell is Dan Bylsma?" I thought. "The dude from my hockey cards?" Pat Quinn is out there. Peter Laviolette is out there and Ray Shero goes with Bylsma? Is this is the white towel being waved?

Feb. 16. Hours after Shero made a last ditch effort to salvage the season and change coaches, I'm sitting inside of Nassau Coliseum for the President's Day matinee between Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders. The Islanders would win in a shootout and the Dan Bylsma era, a mere 14 hours old, was underway. I'm thinking at the time that while the coaching decision might have been necessary, it might be too little, too late at this point. Am I going to be paying attention to New York Yankees baseball a little bit earlier than I had thought?

Feb. 26 and March 4. The grit that Pittsburgh lost over the summer is somewhat recovered as Shero goes out and deals for Bill Guerin(notes) and Chris Kunitz(notes) and picks up Craig Adams(notes) on waivers. Hope is slowly over the horizon. The Pens are in the middle of winning 13 of 16 games and picking up much need ground in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Suddenly, the boozy, depressing games are turning into wins and a confidence that had been lost since earlier in the season.

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May 4. Sidney Crosby(notes) and Alex Ovechkin just traded hat tricks as the Capitals took Game 2 4-3 to go up 2-0 in the series. The thought of losing to Washington, and the noise coming from the nation's capital that would come with it, is enough to make a Pens fan sick. But alas, Mellon Arena heals all and the Penguins take three straight before the Capitals force a Game 7. Nerves rack my brain until Crosby and Adams scored eight seconds apart. Time to relax and head to the conference finals.

May 26. Craig Adams just potted an empty-netter to seal the deal. The Penguins are going back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. "Hop in the Cordoba baby, we're going dancing with Lord Stanley."

June 12. I sit in my office nervously awaiting the clock to strike 8 p.m. and for Game 7 to finally arrive. Who would have thought, even those who keep the faith in hard times, that a little over four months after the mid-season decline, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be one win away from a Stanley Cup? A year ago at this time, they had to watch the Detroit Red Wings celebrate with the Cup all over Motown.

As I Tweeted on Wednesday morning, there was no sense analyzing Game 7. Anything could have happened; it's a crapshoot type of game (see: Pittsburgh-Washington series). Luckily for hockey fans, it was a great game and an incredible way to cap off the season.

9:23 p.m. Maxime Talbot just scored to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. The fans at Jack Demsey's bar in New York City are euphoric and now our eyes shift from worrying about getting that extra goal to clock watching. My buddy Andrew and I are in disbelief at the potential ending of this night. Could it be happening? Really? Can they break the curse at The Joe?

9:27 p.m. After sending out 27 "Holy [Lemieux]" text messages after Talbot's second goal, my older brother, a Canadiens fan, sent a one-word reply that was truly the motto for Penguins Nation on Friday and really, throughout the entire series: "Believe." It was then and there that belief set in, even after Jonathan Ericsson's(notes) late in the third period to cut the lead to one and Pittsburgh decided to play prevent defense for the final 20 minutes.

June 13. It's the morning after. I've been clicking through YouTube and NHL.com videos of all the postgame interviews and highlights. NHL on the Fly is playing in the background. There are no words left to say. No arguments left to fight. No conspiracies to care about.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the 2009 Stanley Cup champions.

Enjoy the CBC 2009 Stanley Cup playoff montage.

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