Prior to every home game, the club hosts a four-on-four, full-ice tilt featuring members of their coaching and hockey operations staff, Penguins alumni, and select media invitees. The tradition was featured on an episode of HBO’s 24/7, which was fortunate to catch a game in which team owner Mario Lemieux played.
While 66 didn’t take the ice on Tuesday, there were still a few notable Pittsburgh big wigs out there. My two most recognizable teammates were assistant coach Todd Reirden and former Penguins player Phil Bourque. On the other bench, my top competition was Head Coach Dan Bylsma, who, even in a men’s-league style game, saw the ice better than everyone else in the building. The guy was flat-out creative with the puck.
For reason’s unknown to me, I managed to get on Bylsma’s bad side early in the game. Throughout the afternoon I endured a few more hooks, jabs and behind-the-play checks than I thought was typical for this type of game.
I spent the rest of the day contemplating what I might have done to deserve this extra attention from the Pens Head Coach. Did I accidentally rough him up on the first shift? Did I black out and talk smack about his questionable glasses/visor combination (which was a pretty serious fashion faux pas)? Am I the Sean Avery of men’s league hockey?
I was using Islanders tough-guy Trevor Gillies
’ stick. Maybe it had a mind of its own and I’d been unknowingly slashing, crosschecking and hooking my away across the rink.
Upon further review with a few friendly spectators, it was pointed out to me that, in a game featuring a squad in white Penguins jerseys against a squad in black Penguins jerseys, I’d mindlessly opted to wear a navy Islanders practice jersey.
In hindsight, I guess I was an easy target.
Gillies’ stick was good for three goals and a handful of helpers; I’ll pretend that’s why I was such a target out there.