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Hawaii Five-O

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Wearing a Hawaiian shirt for nearly a week straight generally isn’t considered good fashion sense.

However, it’s not like James Neal has a choice in the matter – as head coach Dan Bylsma ordered the Penguins winger to wear the loud floral style for five consecutive days after losing a shootout in practice last week.

James Neal heading to dinner in his Hawaiian shirt.
“I knew going into the shootout (the penalty) was going to be a Hawaiian shirt, so I was joking with guys that they might have to wear one and then I end up losing,” Neal said.

Neal’s sentence began on Wednesday when the Penguins left for Florida to visit the Lightning and the Panthers – with their dads in tow for the sixth annual Dads’ Trip.

He’s had to wear a Hawaiian shirt everywhere he goes, including practice, morning skate, games and team dinners – meaning he has to try and incorporate it in with his suits and blazers.

“When I walk in with a tie on and a Hawaiian shirt, people look at me a little weird,” Neal said.

But while it’s a tough style to wear with its bright colors and gaudy patterns, Neal’s teammates, coach and even his own father agreed that he rocks the festive shirt as well as can be expected.

“For some reason it doesn’t look too bad on him,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said with a laugh. “I think for most guys it would be pretty bad, but somehow he pulls it off.”

In fact, forward Arron Asham believes that perhaps it’s time for Neal to make the Hawaiian shirt a permanent staple of his wardrobe.

“It’s actually better than most of the stuff he wears. I think it’s an improvement,” Asham said. “It’s nice, he looks good in it.”

Neal’s dad Peter, who actually got the task of running around Pittsburgh trying to find his son a shirt before they left for the Dads’ Trip, agrees with Asham.

“You know what? He looks good in them," Peter said. "I said, actually, they’re a lot better than your normal shirts. So yes, it’s fun.”

Peter was able to dig up a couple suitable shirts at home that he brought to Pittsburgh, but once he got into town James asked him to pick up a few more.

Unfortunately, Hawaiian shirts have been out of style for a while – which makes them tough to find. After a few dead-end attempts, Peter figured they'd just have to buy them when they got down south.

“I went everywhere in Pittsburgh and could not find Hawaiian shirts,” Peter said. “Finally, I told James, ‘When you get down to Florida, wouldn’t that be a smart place to shop for a Hawaiian shirt?’ So he finally got to Florida and he got a deal on three new shirts."

It certainly worked out nicely for Neal that he was able to wear the shirt in a warm-weather climate like Florida, where he doesn’t look too out of place.

“Luckily for him, it’s going through Tampa and Florida, so he’ll actually kind of fit in with at least a few people,” joked Bylsma – who would actually be the one wearing the shirt if he hadn’t scored on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury while Neal was thwarted by Brent Johnson, as they were the last two standing in the shootout.

But while Neal’s exceeded expectations with the shirt so far, Fleury said that doesn’t mean the guys haven’t been giving it to him, at least a little bit.

“He still has a couple more days to wear it, so still a couple more days to laugh at him,” Fleury grinned.

And unfortunately, Neal's not going to make the shirt part of his personal style – although he might have been singing a different tune if the Penguins hadn't lost to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

"If we would have kept winning I would have kept wearing it," Neal grinned. "But we had a loss last night, so I’m going to get rid of it."
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