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Fan celebrates attending 1,000 Pens games

by Sasha Kandrach / Pittsburgh Penguins

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

Win or lose, the support from the Penguins fanbase is unwavering. Of course, there is a spectrum of extremes, and Daniel Novakowski has quite the resume. He attended his 1,000th Penguins game when Pittsburgh hosted Buffalo back in November. 

But that's just scraping the surface for Novakowski. He has seen the Penguins raise the Stanley Cup, braved brutal winter elements to watch the Penguins play in the Stadium Series, traveled to Sweden for the Premier Games and has worn costumes like Chewbacca, the Grinch, Santa Claus and even a full-size bunny suit to games. The Pittsburgh native really has done it all. 

"We've been through all the ups and downs, highs and lows," Novakowski said. "It's been fun. There's been a lot of highs and frustrations. But it's been really fun." 

Novakowski has been a Penguins fan since the 1980s and has been coming to games since 1996, becoming a season ticket holder in 1998. Over the years, Novakowski has witnessed some of the greatest to ever play the game and experienced the milestones and hardships that have sculpted the storied legacy of the Penguins into what the organization is today. 

"I feel like I've seen it all," Novakowski said.

His passion for the Penguins goes beyond the game itself. His numerous interactions with the organization and the players have contributed to his love for the team. 

"The players are different," Novakowski said. "It's not like football or baseball. The players are more down to earth. They're more approachable and more friendly."

He and his wife Dani fondly remember the days when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal. Fleury would turn around during a break and banter with Novakowski during the game. He would point out if Novawkoski wasn't wearing a jersey or one of his crazy costumes. 

Hockey has dominated a fair portion of the couple's life over the last 25 years. On Feb. 10, 1996 against the Chicago Blackhawks, Daniel and Dani got engaged at center ice. Together, the couple have attended All-Star, Stadium Series and Winter Classic games. 

Daniel even witnessed the priceless raising of the Stanley Cup during Game 7 in Detroit back in 2009. The only remaining experience on Novakowski's bucket list is attending the NHL Awards.

Over the years, he's accumulated an extensive memorabilia collection of Penguin items. He's also acquired over 600 jerseys of nearly every Penguins player over the last decade-plus. 

"For a good 10 or 12 years I had every player that had come through here," Novakowski said. "We built a full locker room to hold all of them." 

That room, where he showcases his prized possessions, is painted Pittsburgh gold.

"He has a wonderful wife," Dani said with a grin.

In years past, he has strategically organized the jerseys inside eight different lockers he has. 

"It's not as organized now," Novakowski admitted with a smile. "But I'm still proud of it."

When asked if it felt surreal to be attending his 1,000th game, he shrugged. 

"I started counting them last year," Novakowski said. "And that's when I realized it was coming up a bit. It doesn't really feel like it. There's been so many. We started out before we were married."

From nosebleed seats in the last row of the former Civic Arena to his current seats five rows behind the net in section 118, Novakowski just loves the organization and the hockey community. 

"We're so grateful to the Penguins organization for making us feel welcomed," Novakowski said.

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