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Inside Scoop: Firefighter Helmet

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After one of the Penguins' early wins, Patric Hornqvist walked over to Sidney Crosby and handed him a firefighter's helmet to don as the player of the game.

"What do you think?" Crosby asked his teammates before turning to Brian Dumoulin. "Would you like to see me coming through your front door or what, B?"

"I feel safe right now," Dumoulin replied with a laugh.

"You would be a good cat rescuer, for sure," Kris Letang chimed in.

Putting on that helmet is especially meaningful for Crosby, who dreamed of becoming a firefighter after a school trip to the local fire department in his native Nova Scotia when he was in first grade.

"We did the whole tour and all of the demos and stuff. After that, that's what I wanted to do," he said. "I always knew the local firefighters. A lot of them were local and were coaches. The schedule was good on the days that they weren't on shift. That was what I was going to do, hopefully, if I didn't play hockey. I'm not sure if I would have made it or not (laughs)."

Because of Crosby's immense respect and admiration for firefighters, he personally requested for this year's player of the game token to be one of their helmets.

"That's the closest I'm coming to being a real firefighter, is when I get to throw that on," Crosby said with a smile. "Hopefully, I get a lot of opportunities to put it on. It's really nice that they sent that our way. We wear it with pride after every win."

Crosby's teammates feel just as strongly about wanting to earn it after wins.

"It's a pretty cool hat from the fire station," Letang said. "It's a real one, so guys are into it, they want it. So it's just to honor the fact that in the community, these guys are making a big sacrifice for us, for our security and our families."

Kevin Acklin, the Penguins' Senior Vice President and General Counsel who previously worked as the chief of staff to Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, reached out to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Chief Darryl Jones with the ask.

"They were thrilled to be a part of it," Acklin said.

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What makes this helmet particularly special is that, as Letang mentioned, it was actually used in a fire. It has burn marks with the smell of smoke still faintly emanating from it.  

In addition, the helmet came from Engine House 4, which is on Forbes Avenue in Uptown - just a five-minute walk away from PPG Paints Arena.

 

"That literally is the firehouse that protects the arena," Acklin said. "A testament to our captain for thinking of the men and women of the Fire Bureau. I can tell you they're excited about it."

The respect and admiration that Crosby and his teammates have for the firefighters is completely mutual.

"I think it's pretty awesome," firefighter Todd Schultz said. "It hits home since we work here. The Penguins actually looking to us as heroes or warriors or MVPs is pretty cool. My whole life, I looked up to firemen and police officers, so I understand where it comes from. 

"But us, we're looking up to the athletes. The Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin -" he said before adding with a laugh, "And of course (Justin) Schultz."

They get such a kick out of the players putting the fire helmet on - and got a good laugh when Hornqvist almost put it on backwards the first time he wore it.

"I fixed the chin strap because I got a lot of texts from guys around the city and friends at home that were like, 'Can someone go down and help these guys put the helmet on? They seem a little confused,'" firefighter Craig Canofari said with a laugh.

Canofari and his older brother, Todd, have been working together at Engine House 4 for the last two years. They're both big fans of the team, with Todd actually sporting various Penguins tattoos on his leg. He had made a bet with his tattoo artist during the 2009 Stanley Cup Final that the Penguins would win, and if they did, he would get a tattoo of Crosby.

"I went back to get more of my arm sleeve done, and he was like, 'You owe me a tattoo,'" Todd said. "So he did it, and I was like, 'We might as well keep tattooing things.' So I got (Mario) Lemieux, the Civic Arena … My mom was like, 'What are you doing?' (Laughs)"

Growing up, they went to Penguins games with their father and uncle. Now, they watch from down the street when they're on a shift. There's a common area inside of Engine House 4 with couches and chairs surrounding a mounted TV. 

"With TV now, we can pause it. In the playoffs, you don't want to miss any action," Craig said. "You pause the TV, go out and do what you have to do, you run right back and hope they scored a goal. It just makes it more exciting, being that they're right down the street. It almost feels like you can hear them cheering when they score a goal."

Being so close to the rink is one of the main draws to working at Engine House 4. The firefighters who worked during the 2016 and '17 Stanley Cup Final runs still marvel at how much of a madhouse it was.

"We're working for most of the games, so you get to see the crowds outside of the arena and different things," Schultz said. "We're going by and shooting the air horn at them and getting them fired up, so it's pretty cool."

Most of the firefighters agreed that Crosby would probably make the best firefighter, with Craig summing it up best - "The guy is incredible at everything, so I assume he would make a good firefighter."

But even though Hornqvist may have had some trouble putting the helmet on right, he's definitely got the heart for it.

"I actually had a buddy just tell me he ran into Patric Hornqvist on a call and he tried to help," Craig said. "He wanted to help take care of the patient. You wouldn't even think of him as a pro athlete. He just wanted to get his hands dirty and help out."

That's just one of the many reasons the firefighters are proud to share the helmet with the Penguins.

"I value that helmet coming from someone who has two grandfathers who were firemen. Then I respect what those guys do so much," Craig said. "They're some of the nicest people when you get to meet them. The fact that they want to share in something I'm passionate about is really exciting."

"It's super cool because you feel like you're part of the community with them being right there and we see them come into the rink all the time," Todd agreed. "It's like, we do this for Pittsburgh, they do that for Pittsburgh. It's pretty sweet that we're associated."

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