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Couple travels from Scotland for pair of Pens games

by Christa Eaton / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins and PPG are working together on a series of stories to feature the most colorful fans in the game.

The idea of coming to the United States from Scotland to see the Penguins play the Flyers and the Oilers seemed nearly impossible for Ali Watt, but thanks to his wife Emma, it all came true.

Ali, an actor, and Emma, a teacher, are Penguins fans living in Glasgow, Scotland. They met each other while attending Glasgow University and got married in 2017. 

Ali has been a Penguins fan ever since he was 12 years old. He had some friends introduce him to the sport, and one of the main reasons he was drawn to the Penguins was because of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. 

On the other hand, Emma wasn't into sports when they met, but was eventually converted into a big Penguins fan. 

"The transformation that occurred was extraordinary," Ali said. "Suddenly she became a hockey superfan. I was coming home from work when she was on her holidays and she'd have watched a whole bunch of documentaries and clips and movies and episodes of 'In The Room,' and read articles and trade rumors. She'd be telling me all this hugely in-depth information about how Matt Cullen's kids are seen by Phil Kessel as supreme tactical arbiters of hockey. I was astounded, but Emma's completely captivated by the Pens now."

During last year's playoffs, Emma brought up the idea of visiting Pittsburgh. But Ali thought that would be impossible, so he just laughed it off. But it wasn't impossible to her. 

"In between watching Miracle and browsing Geno's Instagram account, she must have been planning itineraries," Ali said. "Because as time went by, Emma kept saying things like, 'You know, if we plan it right, the Pens are playing the Flyers on the road during my February holidays next year and then the Oilers at home, just two days later!''"

It all worked out for the couple, as Ali ended up having time off from work at the same time as Emma. Once they learned this, they decided to commit to making the trip. 

"We traveled to Pittsburgh in stages," Ali said. 

It was cheapest for them to take a one-hour flight to London, followed by an eight-hour flight into New York. 

"After a couple of days there to settle, we took an hour-long train to Philly to watch the Battle of PA," Ali said.

There, Ali and Emma watched as the Penguins beat the Flyers by a score of 4-1.

"The Philly game was amazing in its own right because it was our first time watching the Penguins in person," Ali said. "We simply couldn't believe that we were getting to watch these amazing players on the ice and we were even thrilled to see (Mike Sullivan) and Mark Recchi yelling their lungs out from the bench." 

The pair then took an eight-hour Amtrak train all the way to Pittsburgh in time to try out some meatballs at Emporio: A Meatball Joint before going to bed. 

"Pittsburgh is such a fantastic city," Ali said. "We were completely taken by it from the moment we arrived and, staring up at the skyline we recognized from the hockey coverage, we had to pinch ourselves that we had arrived."

The next day, the Penguins were hosting the Edmonton Oilers at PPG Paints Arena. In the morning, Ali and Emma stopped at PensGear to stock up on Penguins memorabilia. They later stopped at destinations like Heinz Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum and Primanti's before heading back to the rink. 

They arrived and quickly found their seats, which were much closer than Ali thought they would be. 

"I couldn't believe it when we stopped just a few rows from the boards and she told me they were our seats," Ali said. "They were just fantastic, far better than I'd ever had, even back at our local rink watching the Glasgow Clan."

It gave them a perspective they 

Those seats proved to be good as they got to see the game up close and at a much faster pace. 

"The game at that distance was just so, so fast, so, so skillful," Ali said. "And getting to see players like Sid, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, to see (Matt) Murray save Connor McDavid on a penalty shot and even to see Iceburgh dancing to Van Halen - all up close -was just incredible." 

Not only did they get to see the game up close, but they also got to witness another win as the Penguins beat the Oilers by a score of 3-1. 

"The atmosphere, occasion and just sheer size of the place was utterly amazing and we were both pretty overwhelmed," Ali said. "It was the best sporting experience of our lives."

The game, the city and the people of Pittsburgh made this a fantastic trip for the couple, and they couldn't have been more appreciative.

"As soon as anyone heard our accents, wherever we were, they welcomed us to the city, asked after our stay and wished us an amazing time in their town," Ali said. "Everyone was clearly so justifiably proud of their city and we were made to feel so welcome. So thanks so much to all the Yinzers we met!"

It was something that started out as an impossible road trip but soon turned into an experience that the Watts will never forget, and may even try to do again sometime. 

"The city clearly has so much to offer, we'd recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat, fans of hockey or not," Ali said. "I'll have to try and talk Emma into taking a sabbatical, though, so we can come during the playoffs next time!"

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