On June 9, 2009, most Penguins fans remember watching Pittsburgh battle Detroit in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in the comforts of their home, out with friends or maybe even on the big screen outside CONSOL Energy Center.
Sergeant Tom Lieb of Nicktown, PA, is different. He remembers watching the big game from a stream on his computer in Kara, a city in Northern Iraq.
When the Penguins won Game 7 over the Red Wings to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, Lieb looked up to the American flag that was flying over his head.
“I want that flag,” he said, and the army gladly gave it to him.
On March 22, 2012, Lieb – with the help of his nephew Dimitri – presented the flag in a shadow box to the Penguins coaching staff and general manager Ray Shero before Pittsburgh’s game against Nashville at CONSOL Energy Center.
“It was awesome,” said Lieb about meeting the Penguins’ staff. “That’s one of the things I like about hockey. Everyone in the organization is very down to earth. They’re people, so you can go in there and talk to them and not feel embarrassed or anything. They’ll talk to you like a normal person, they’ll laugh and they’ll crack jokes. “
Lieb was able to present the flag tonight because he had plans to bring Dimitri to the game for his ninth birthday, and both were all smiles in head coach Dan Bylsma’s office. Dimitri, a goalie for his hockey team, was especially ecstatic to meet Penguins’ goalie coach Giles Meloche.
“It’s actually really nice,” Lieb said of the whole experience. “I feel privileged, to be honest with you.”
Along with the American flag, Lieb brought Bylsma and staff flag patches he wore during various missions in Iraq.
“I always saw Dan Bylsma during the national anthem – every time I watched he has his hand on his heart,” Lieb said. “I’m giving him my flag, my little side flag that flew on the right shoulder because that means a lot to see people do that.”