As avid fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Michelle Hardy and her daughter, Kate, share a special bond over their love of hockey and the organization.
Starting roughly four years ago, Kate became fascinated with the Pens as a whole, which led to convincing her mother to become a fan and go to games together. The passion and pride in their team has grown every year since.
“The two guys in our house weren’t hockey fans, so we were baseball, football and everything else,” Michelle said. “So she (Kate) started following hockey and figured if she got me attached that I can start buying tickets (laughs).
“So we started coming and it used to be our thing. We started coming to a lot of games, so it gave us something other than travel, shopping or other kinds of girl stuff that you can think of. We just absolutely love this team.”
Sadly, that bond over hockey and the Pens hit a major speed bump May 19 when Michelle was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. Upon hearing the news, Michelle didn’t care about life expectancy; she was just focused on reaching certain milestones in life.
Michelle wants to see her kids, Kate and Rob, grow up, and she wants to celebrate many more anniversaries with her husband. Michelle also made it clear she wants to see the Pens raise the Stanley Cup one more time.
Due to her diagnosis, Michelle and Kate want to make this hockey season a memorable one that they can cherish. The Pens do too.
Following an invitation to take in a development camp practice, get a tour of the facility and meet some of the players, Michelle and Kate came to CONSOL Energy Center, July 15, as special guests of the Pens.
Taking in the 3-on-3 scrimmage, which was closed to the public, Michelle and Kate were in awe of what the Pens had done for them due to their story.
“Oh my gosh, they’ve been wonderful,” Michelle said while watching the scrimmage from the First Niagara Club seats. “First of all, I don’t feel worthy. I don’t know why they’re so interested in me being here, but it’s meant a lot to us. To be here and almost feel like a part of the Penguin family.”
“We always see things they do for people,” Kate added. “They’re a great organization, but this is kind of mind-blowing.”
After the 3-on-3 scrimmage wrapped up, Michelle and Kate received a tour of CONSOL Energy Center before heading down into the Pens locker room to meet some of the players at development camp.
Michelle and Kate were most excited to meet defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who spent time in the NHL last season.
Spending a few minutes talking with the 21-year-old defenseman, Michelle and Kate smiled the whole time while talking to a member of their favorite hockey team from inside the locker room.
“(Pouliot) is already going to be great,” Kate said. “We’re excited to see how he’s going to do this year.”
Traveling to at least one road game a year, the mother-daughter tandem represents the Pens wherever they go, deepening their bond along the way.
“I wish we traveled with the team,” Michelle said. “But we try to do one away game per year and last year we went to Nashville. It just so happened that they were at our hotel and we were able to get her (Kate’s) jersey signed by (Olli) Maatta, so it was really exciting.”
While the Pens don’t open the 2015-16 season until Oct. 8 in Dallas, the Hardy’s have plenty of things to check off Michelle’s bucket list before that.
“We do have some big things on the bucket list coming up,” Michelle said. “We’re doing a nice big cruise next month. Then we’re going to do some individual things. I’m going to take Kate to New York, and my son, Rob, to Las Vegas. I’m letting my husband, he’s going to spoil me on a trip somewhere (laughs). We’re going to do some things to ourselves. You just never know (how much time is left).”
For the time being though, Michelle is in good spirits, especially after her experience with the Pens during development camp. Turning her attention towards the upcoming season, Michelle said she is hoping a Stanley Cup is in the near future. As for another road trip, the Hardy’s have identified a trip to PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes, as this season’s trip.
“(We’re thinking) Carolina,” Michelle said. “We have family down in North Carolina, so we think that one is for sure. Hopefully (there are) a couple of others (this season).”
For more background information on Michelle and Kate Hardy’s story, the Trib’s Jason Mackey wrote about them here.