Pittsburgh

Champions Again

I rarely write about sports on this blog anymore unless it involves women’s soccer. I mostly cover music. It’s what I’m most passionate about. Last night though, something that doesn’t happen very often occurred in the sports world giving me an opportunity to write about another sport for a change. My favorite NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, won the Stanley Cup, the NHL’s Championship trophy.

Whether you know or not, I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I became a Pittsburgh Penguins fan by default. I grew up watching their AHL (minor league hockey) affiliate play in my hometown. I had season tickets to watch the team for many years and attended games regularly throughout middle school, high school, college, and even a few years after. I watched players develop and make it to the NHL. Then, I cheered them on as they played in the Burgh. In the fall of 2008, I made it out to Pittsburgh to see my first NHL game and returned yearly for games each fall through 2012 (I was even out there twice within a few months one year for two different hockey events). I explored Pittsburgh more and more each visit, falling in love with the Steel City. Since 2012, I returned to Pittsburgh three more times, once for a mini summer vacation trip and twice to see the Penguins play. The most recent visit was a mere three weeks ago to watch the Penguins play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the first Stanley Cup Playoff game I had ever seen. I was pumped to attend, but probably not as excited as I would have been a few years ago when I was much more emotionally invested in the Penguins and hockey in general. I’m still so glad it occurred during this Championship run. Enough about me though. Let’s focus on the Penguins for a second. They’re the real champs right now.

Last evening at the SAP Center (aka The Shark Tank) in San Jose, CA, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the best of seven series 4-2 and hoist the Stanley Cup for the 4th time in franchise history (1991, 1992, 2009 were the other three championship years). Pittsburgh’s goals were scored by Brian Dumolin (power play goal, assists by Justin Schultz and Chris Kunitz, 1st period at 8:16), Kris Letang (game-winner, assists by Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary, 2nd period at 7:46), and Patric Hornqvist (empty net goal, assist by Sidney Crosby, 3rd period at 18:58). Logan Couture had the lone tally for San Jose when he tied the game at 1 apiece in the second period. Couture’s goal came 79 seconds before the eventual game-winner by Letang.

To win the Stanley Cup the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New York Rangers in the first round in 5 games, the President’s Trophy (given to the NHL team with the best record in the regular season) winning Washington Capitals in the second round in 6 games, and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final in 7 games before winning the series against the Sharks last night. The last time the Penguins won the Stanley Cup was exactly 7 years earlier on June 12, 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings. Only 7 members of the current Penguins roster were part of the 2009 squad who hoisted the cup after Game 7 in Detroit. Several members of the Pittsburgh Penguins roster, including playoff regulars, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Matt Murray, began the season with team’s AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The rookies played an integral part in Pittsburgh’s championship run making it an organizational victory from top to bottom. Of the 20 players who suited up for Pittsburgh during last night’s cup clinching game, 17 spent significant time in the AHL (significant being defined as 10 or more games). 8 of the 17 spent significant time with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate.

I watched all 8 of those 17 players develop at some point making it pretty amazing to watch them lift the cup last night, especially the rookies who are only in their early 20’s (Murray just turned 22, unreal!). When the Pen’s won the cup in 2009, I had a much different feeling watching them win. I watched many of them grow in the AHL as well, but at the time I was younger and they were older. I looked up to those guys. Plus I never saw my favorite hockey team win a championship before (the AHL team never wins championships). This time felt more like a proud mom moment. All the guys I watched develop last year and the year before are a few years younger than me. I don’t see them in the same way as I did with the guys in 2009 and I already knew what it felt like to win a championship. My celebration wasn’t as wild. I didn’t run around the house screaming. I wasn’t out of breath. Part of the reason is also because I don’t watch hockey the same way. For years, hockey took up so much of my time. Within the last few years, I wanted to move on from hockey and focus on my life and achieve my goals. Hockey was just a form of entertainment for me. I became a more casual fan and stopped attending games regularly. It’s more fun that way now. I just enjoy watching the sport. It’s a pretty exciting sport too and great to watch when working out. Overall, I’m just free to focus on me, which is my priority anyway.

No matter what though, the Pittsburgh Penguins will always be my favorite hockey team. I grew up as Penguins fan and I have no doubt my allegiance will stick with me no matter where I go or what I do. When the Pens go on a playoff run, I’ll always support them just as I did this spring and last night. Since they actually won the cup during this run, it’s time to celebrate the championship. Way to go Pittsburgh! Let’s Go Pens! Party hard!

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We are infinite.

A few days ago the trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action film, Beauty and the Beast premiered. The new film will star Emma Watson as Belle. Her brief appearance in the trailer made me yearn to watch an Emma Watson movie. Of course, I could have easily picked any of the eight Harry Potter films, but I was particularly in the mood for the movie adapted from my favorite book of all time, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I first read the book as a high school junior. It was my favorite book before I even finished it. To this day, it is the only book to ever make me both laugh and cry. I related to it. I quoted it. I talked about it and I loved it.

While I was in college, it was announced that the book would be made into a movie. Despite the standard book to movie criticism, I was amped. I would check for updates on the film from time to time. I remember being intrigued when I found out Emma Watson was cast as Sam. Until that point, I only knew her as Hermione Granger. I found out when it would be filmed and that it was going to be filmed in Pittsburgh, the location where the story takes place. I even went to some filming locations in Pittsburgh while visiting to attend a hockey game about a year before the film was released (Doing this lead to the discovery of my favorite breakfast place in the Burgh. They make the best pancakes ever!).

The release was another thing. I’ve never been more excited for a movie release in my life and the release date happened to get pushed back. It was supposed to come out in the Spring of 2012 but was pushed to the fall of that year. In the time period between when it was filmed and when it was released, I would look up pre-screenings of the movie just to see if I would be able to attend (I didn’t though). When the movie came out in September 2012, it was limited. I wasn’t sure when it would be in theaters near me so I ended up driving to King of Prussia one Sunday to see it. I remember shaking with anticipation as the title sequence started. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the greatness of the book, but it did. It really did. Then I saw it three more times when it came into theaters close by.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky is also the author of the book. Having the book’s author as the writer of the adapted screenplay and director of the film was key in having it live up to expectations. The film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev (Candace, Charlie’s sister), Johnny Simmons, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh (Charlie’s Mom), and Dylan McDermott (Charlie’s Dad). Joan Cusack (Dr. Burton) even has a minor role in the film. Perks was also a box office success, more than doubling it’s budget.

As the film begins, Charlie (Lerman), a teenage boy, is seen typing a letter to an anonymous friend about starting high school the following day, something he is not anticipating. As a shy, quiet kid, he finds it difficult to fit in and make friends. He ends up connecting with his English teacher (Rudd) on the first day of school instead.

It isn’t until a school football game when he is invited to sit with a senior in his woodshop class named Patrick (Miller) and Patrick’s stepsister, Sam (Watson), that any spark of friendship begins. Upon meeting Sam at the game, Charlie finds her to be very attractive despite the fact that she is older and is starting to see someone. This also sets the tone for Charlie’s love interest throughout the movie. After homecoming, Charlie’s new friends bring him to one of their parties where he meets the rest of their crew, Mary Elizabeth (Whitman), Alice, and Bob, engages in drug related activity for the first time by eating a pot brownie, tells Sam about his best friend’s suicide the previous year, and catches Patrick hooking up with the football team’s star quarterback, Brad (Simmons), which he is asked to keep quiet about by Patrick so that Brad’s father wouldn’t find out. By the end of the party, the entire group accepts him as a wallflower and their newest friend. The rest of the film continues to take the audience through Charlie’s first year of high school and through his experiences of life, love, friendship, and growing up.

My description of the film makes it sound basic and simple, but it’s not. The film touches on so many relevant teen issues and also issues related to life in general such as drugs and alcohol, sex, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide. There’s first loves, kisses and relationships, fights, lessons in friendship, music, and of course the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s in every way a coming of age drama/comedy.

Despite the fact that The Perks of Being A Wallflower is indeed my favorite book ever (I’ve actually kept my copy beside my bed ever since I read it back in 2005), the movie isn’t my favorite movie of all time. It represents the book in the best way, but as any book to movie adaptation goes, it’s not exactly the same. The book has more detail and more back story (as most books often do). I also feel like the book version is more adult than the film version even though the story is about high school kids (let’s face it though, high school isn’t the media’s definition of teen). Perks was never a “teen” book so to speak. It was always found in the adult fiction section of every book store. However, a lot of teenagers were the ones reading the book. When making the film, Chbosky knew his audience would be teenagers so he made the film more teen friendly and view-able, opting for a PG-13 rating, rather than an R rated version (which would’ve been a better representation of the book I think). As a PG-13 movie lacking a large chunk of story detail, it is still the best book adaption I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I recommend that you see it some time in your life, but I also recommend that you read the book first. Sure it’s not necessary, but it gives you a greater understanding of the film. Honestly, I could go on about this story. There’s so much I want to say like the fact that driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at night and coming out to witness the grandeur of Pittsburgh is everything the story makes it out to be or that even though this film/story doesn’t surround music, it features some of the best music and mix tape references (“Asleep” by The Smiths, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (in the book only), or “Heroes” by David Bowie anyone?) or that I still relate quotes from the story to my life on a monthly basis. The truth is that it holds a special place in my heart and it’s relevant beyond my teenage years. It provides a message of hope and positivity even with referencing some dark topics. As an adult, I’ve known people who have accepted the love they thought they deserved because they each dated someone who wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve had enough experiences to know that things change, friends leave, and life doesn’t stop for anybody. As I chase my dreams, I try to remember that even if I don’t have the power to choose where I come from, I can still choose where I go from there. And of course, even as an adult, there are still times that in certain moments, I feel infinite.

 

 

A Great Day for Hockey

When I was in 5th grade, a big change occurred in my hometown. It was the opening of a brand new arena that planned to bring new forms of entertainment to the area. One of those forms of entertainment was the addition of a minor league hockey team. I attended the first ever game for this team at the new arena. It was a big deal for the community at the time and little did I know, it was also a big deal for me. The new team started my interest in hockey and along the way made me into a hockey fan.

My family has had season tickets for this team for the last 14 years (it’s the team’s 16th season), but I really didn’t start getting too into it until about the 4th year or so that we had the tickets. Still, it’s been a long time. Long enough that I feel like I need a change when it comes to hockey, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway, the point is that this week is the start of both the NHL and AHL (the minor league that our local team is in) seasons. Tonight in particular is the start for the NHL. I most likely won’t be making blog posts every year for the start of hockey. Since I just started posting though, I figured there’s no better way to introduce my love as a fan for the sport.

So am I here to analyze all the NHL teams and give you a break down of how I think they’ll do? No. Not at all. If this was solely a hockey blog, I might do that. Instead I’ll let you know what I know about my favorite team and maybe throw in some things I’ve heard. My favorite NHL club is the Pittsburgh Penguins (our minor league team is affiliated with them so they became my favorite by default). Basically the story for Pittsburgh this season goes like this, new management, new coach, new staff, same core superstars, and a few new off-season additions. As a fan I’m hoping all this newness translates onto the ice. Hopefully it will be in the form of some changes in the style of play because in recent years it’s been effective during the season but not in the playoffs. In the past few years the Pens played a dump-and-chase style of hockey, meaning they would toss the puck into their offensive zone and try to win possession of the puck by engaging in puck battles. I’ve heard the style is effective if executed well, and it has been, but only at times. In the playoffs it seemed that the Pens played a much slower game than opponents using this style of play. As a result they haven’t made a Stanley Cup Final since 2009 when they actually won the holy grail of hockey (the dump-and-chase was effective then). I hope the new organizational changes translate to the minor league team as well. We’ll see what happens. So far I haven’t noticed many style changes at least from the minor league team perspective (I saw a pre-season game), but that could change.

As I got into hockey I started to notice some other teams/players that I took a liking to. One of those was the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t end up being a bad choice to like them either as the year I started paying attention to them they won a Stanley Cup (2010). It was their first since 1961. They also won another cup in 2013 and have been making the playoffs since the 08-09 season. In general though, the teams that I like other than the Pens tend to be more Western Conference teams (the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings are pretty fun to watch). That might be because as a Pens fan I dislike a lot of rivals from the East (the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals). Either that or I’m just a big fan of the west (if you know me you’ll say this is the reason)?

Okay so 2014-2015 season here’s a little of what I’ve heard.

1. The Washington Capitals seem to be going through some organizational revitalization after many promising seasons with no championship results.

2. Look to the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers to do better than they have the past few years.

3. The Toronto Maple Leafs will still suck.

4. (Opinion) I expect something big out of the Minnesota Wild after the playoff run they put together last season.

5. (Opinion) I also expect the Flyers to be better than in the years since their Finals run in 2010. They might not make playoffs, but I expect them to at least push for a spot.

6. The NY Rangers will suck (okay I didn’t hear this, nor do I think it but I’m sure if I asked my friend Mike who is a Rangers fan this is what he’d tell me).

7. Expect good years from Chicago, LA, and Anaheim.

For now, that’s all I’ve got. If you know something I don’t about these teams or any other teams please let me know (comments please!). I like hockey and I definitely love to hear some hockey talk.

Finally I think I should at least do a Stanley Cup Finals/Champion pick just for the hell of it. Overall, I expect the Western Conference to reign superior once again. Their style of play seems way more fast paced and goal-scoring oriented than the Eastern Conference teams, but who knows maybe the Pens will put some sort of crazy run together so I can purchase another championship tee shirt.

Cup Final: Anaheim Ducks vs. Washington Capitals (Dream Final: Any team (okay maybe except the Hawks as I would feel conflicted) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins)

Champion: Anaheim Ducks (Dream Champion: Pittsburgh Penguins)

So good luck to all the pro hockey teams out there starting their seasons this week/tonight. According to “Badger” Bob Johnson, “It’s is a great day for hockey!” I agree. And so is tomorrow. Let’s go Pens!