What is the atmosphere at a Stanley Cup game like? Well, it’s incredible and surreal, just as you would expect. But since I had the honor of covering Game 6 in Pittsburgh, I thought it would be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what the joyous chaos was like.
The first thing that becomes apparent at a Cup game is the sheer mania that grips the home team’s fans. Walking into Mellon Arena I was immediately tuned into the anxiousness, anticipation and nervous energy engulfing all in attendance at what could have been the final game of the series had Pittsburgh lost. It was like an invisible field of electricity, dancing across the hairs on your arm before leaping to the next person.
Up in the press box, high above the ice, is where the real perspective came however. A sea of white T-shirts had taken their seats much earlier than a regular season crowd would have, while the first seismic event occurred a full seven minutes before the opening festivities.
“Let’s Go Pens!” was the chant and the sheer volume of the masses filled the domed Igloo, seemingly shaking the building. AC/DC’s classic arena anthem “Thunderstruck” came on over the speakers and things got even louder. A sense that you were part of something bigger only grew after the puck dropped.
And while “Let’s Go Pens!” or specific chants of “Geno!” for Evgeni Malkin and “Fleury!” for Marc-Andre Fleury were the calls of the night, make no mistake: Red Wings fans have been equal to the task in this series. In Detroit, however, they chant “Ozzie!” for Chris Osgood, then wait for the part of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to join Steve Perry as he yells out “Born and raised in south Detroit.”
Up in the box, Pittsburgh’s black aces hung out nervously on couches, their beards a dead giveaway of their occupation. The clean-looking exception was healthy scratch Miroslav Satan, who had been replaced for the night by fellow veteran winger Petr Sykora. Satan, as expected, spent the night pacing, his anguish palpable. I can help out there, I can help…his body language screamed.
Needless to say, the Jordan Staal goal to open the scoring nearly tore the roof off, as did Tyler Kennedy’s eventual game-winning marker. Kris Draper’s response for the Wings triggered a vacuum of silence. The final scramble turned a stadium full of pins and needles into one collective exhalation and emotional outburst once the final buzzer sounded.
But my night was only half over. Waiting for the Pens’ dressing room to open to the media, I stood with about 35 of my colleagues (even for a Toronto reporter, that’s a lot). As we waited for the signal to commence stampeding, the case containing the Stanley Cup – unearned that night and therefore unreleased – was wheeled past us. For those who had been on the road for the whole series, it was a painful reminder they would be spending at least three more days eating wretchedly and staying up way too late. For me, it was just poignant.
In the Pittsburgh dressing room, Staal was the hero of the night and got all the attention that comes along with such a performance. As the night whittled down, the players hung out in the bowels of the arena with family and friends. Bill Guerin patiently listened to his excited kids as his family made its way out of the rink after a long night. Fortunately for Guerin, there would be one more game before his job was done for the season.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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