Pittsburgh Welcomes Hockey Back Tonight

By Brian Metzer

Though the NHL season finally kicked off on Saturday, today will make it feel real as Pittsburghers finally have a chance to see a game in the flesh. The Penguins host the Toronto Maple Leafs in their home opener and it is always one of the best days of the year.

It doesn’t matter if you are a player, media member, rabid fan or any combination of the three; it is always exciting to welcome the NHL back with the celebration that is the first home game. The slate is clean, the canvas empty, as this game provides every market an opportunity to believe that this is going to be their year!

Here are just a few of things that I look forward to seeing/hearing/experiencing each and every season as the gates to the CONSOL Energy Center swing open.

  • The opening montage – I have always loved video montages. I am a sucker for them. The Penguins have always done a great job of crafting them and we’ll get a new one tonight. I don’t know all the details of what we’ll all be seeing, but from what I heard it is going to be pretty awesome. Some band should prepare to see a spike in the iTunes sales of whatever song is going to be used, as many fans will likely start that process before they even leave the arena.
  • The fact that it is sort of like a back-to-school situation for all involved. Sure, training camp has that feel as well, but for many the games are where it all happens. Maybe you’ll be catching up with fellow season ticket holders in a section that you have sat in for years, or you’re like me and haven’t seen some of your press box cronies for far too long. Personally I can’t wait to catch up with the likes of Mike Colligan, Adam Gretz, Vince Comunale and the great Dan Scifo. There are countless others as well!
  • Playing Pens Predictor – we do it on Press row and I am sure that it happens in each of the 18,087 seats in the building. There is nothing like the euphoria that one feels when the guy you chose actually scores the first goal of the night!
  • Chants of “Fleury, Fleury, Fleury,” “Crosby, Crosby, Crosby,” and “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
  • Listening to the auditory masterwork of the great Vinny Karpuszka! Obviously there is a steady dose of X Music considering that the station is the team’s flagship, but Vin has done a great job of letting his personality shine through over the years my working in metal throughout the night. I still get blown away when I think of the first time I heard Dimmu Borgir blare from the Civic Arena’s sound system.
  • Press box coffee, which always manages to taste better than any that I have ever brewed on my own.
  • Seeing your favorite usher and catching up after a long off-season.
  • Trying to predict the next song during the warm-up, hearing the crunch of the skates in the ice, and the explosion of pucks hitting the back boards.
  • Seeing Sidney Crosby stretch on the dot before getting his knee propeller motion going, leaping up to join the skate with his teammates. Then watching him stickhandle through the McDonald’s logo.

  • The MVP hitting the ice last because he’s “three years KHL” and then stretching in the circle with a series of scissor-kicks and contortions.

  • The entire team converging on Marc-Andre Fleury as they try to put a puck past him that will end the warm-up. Hearing the jeers and cheers as someone finally cashes in.
  • The flock of birds that has been roosting in the CONSOL Energy Center since it was built. Let’s just say that Hitchcock has nothing on these avian allies. Last year one of the birds spent time strafing Ondrej Pavelec during a Penguins victory.
  • Goldfish crackers, popcorn and soft pretzel dinner.
  • Hearing the place absolutely explode when the home team scores its first goal. Though some concerts duplicate the feeling with thundering bass, it is rare that you can feel the force of so many voices deep in your core. It really is awesome.
  • Jimerson. It’s just not the same without Jimerson belting out the Anthem.
  • No disrespect to Ryan Mill, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I still miss John Barbero. It is worth noting that Mill has really grown into the position and seems much more comfortable with the gig. I look forward to hearing him in action this year.
  • The “ARE YOU READY!?” Penguin. I mean who doesn’t love personified animals! Sadly we missed him dressed as an elf and Santa during the holiday season, but we will still get him in full Leprechaun regalia on St. Patty’s Day.

This list could go on and on, but I am ending it here. What are some of the things that you look forward to experiencing during the home opener and this season in general at the CONSOL Energy Center?