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Stanley Cup Playoff postcard: Washington, Pennsylvania

NHL.com's Nicholas J. Cotsonika finds one Washington that's rooting for the Penguins

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

WASHINGTON, Pa. -- In Washington, they favor Pittsburgh.

Not in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles southwest of the Steel City.

They have "City of WASHINGTON" signs on Main Street in red, white and blue with stars and stripes, and the stars look like the stars on the sweaters of the Washington Capitals. There is Washington & Jefferson College, a hotel called The George Washington and a beautiful building with a dome that looks a little like the U.S. Capitol.

But that building is the Washington County Courthouse, and when I walked in and introduced myself as a writer for NHL.com, Jim Disanti, Deputy Sheriff of Washington County, had one question: "How's Sidney?" He was concerned for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has a concussion.

You'd better believe they're pulling for the Penguins against the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Second Round here. Do they hate Washington in Washington? Disanti wouldn't use that word.

"I dislike them badly," he said with a laugh.

Jessica Sadler walked to work wearing a Penguins sweatshirt.

"I don't know too much about Washington, D.C., honestly," she said. "I know that we'll win, though."

The Presidents Pub will show Game 4 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) with the Penguins leading the best-of-7 series 2-1. When a goal is scored, they will ring a cowbell and offer a drink special for one minute. When a Pittsburgh goal is scored, I should say.

"If Pittsburgh is playing Washington, and we're in Washington, who are we rooting for?" server Amy Zigerelli said, repeating my silly question, playing along. "Pittsburgh."

Well, almost everybody.

Washington has produced an NHL player, and he plays for … Washington.

Riley Barber's father, Don, played in the NHL from 1988-92. His mom, Stacy, was from Washington, Pennsylvania. After his dad retired from hockey, his parents settled in his mom's hometown.

He grew up a huge Penguins fan. He even went to Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit, when the Penguins won the Cup for the third time. He rose through the hockey ranks and was eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, which was held in, of all places, Pittsburgh. He went to the Capitals in the sixth round (No. 167).

"Everybody was rooting for me to get drafted by the Penguins because they're such big fans," Barber said. "When I got drafted by the Capitals, I definitely got a lot of texts from my cousins and from other parts of the family. 'Well, now we've got to trade in our jerseys and root for the Capitals now. Reluctantly.' "

Barber played three games for the Capitals this season. He is now playing for Hershey in the American Hockey League playoffs. His parents have moved to Michigan, but his mom's side of the family still lives in Washington, Pennsylvania.

"They rock the Hershey Bears stuff," Barber said. "They've got Capitals shirts and everything. They say they try not to rock them around downtown too much."

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