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Penguins Fans Celebrate Cup Back Home

by Wes Crosby / Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- With 6:22 remaining in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Sunday, the NBC broadcast showed the Stanley Cup being lifted from its case.

At that time, the Pittsburgh Penguins held a one-goal lead against the San Jose Sharks. On the other side of the United States, over 16,000 fans attending a watch party inside Consol Energy Center were driven into frenzy.

That's the moment those fans knew it was real. The Penguins, who were in 12th place in the Eastern Conference in December, were agonizingly close to winning their first championship since 2009.

"It basically brought back memories of when they won in 2009, seeing it come out then and seeing it again," said Corey Negley, who was in high school when Pittsburgh previously won the Stanley Cup. "You're just sitting there on pins and needles because it's only 2-1 and they can come back."

Patric Hornqvist calmed any nerves with 1:22 remaining, when he extended the lead to 3-1 on an empty-net goal. It would be the final score.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup three days after failing to clinch it at home for the first time. That 4-2 loss in Game 5 didn't matter to these fans, who created an atmosphere comparable to any game played here since the arena opened in 2010.

"This was great. It was 16,000 friends to celebrate with," Penguins fan Chris Misechak said. "I don't think I could breathe for the last minute."

Admission to the watch party cost $10, with proceeds benefitting the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. The low price attracted a younger group that fan Mason Mitchell, who attended Game 5, thought outdid the crowd from Thursday.

"I feel like it's fairly similar. Actually, I think it's a little louder," Mitchell said. "I think there's maybe some more youth here today. It's loud in here. This is fun."

When the Stanley Cup was brought onto the ice in San Jose, the fans back in Pittsburgh began a "Yes!" chant, made famous by retired professional wrestler Daniel Bryan. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby then lifted the Cup and hats cascaded over the glass here.

The Cup was passed from Crosby to defenseman Trevor Daley before being handed to forward Pascal Dupuis, who ended his playing career on Dec. 8 because of a medical condition related to blood clots. Several fans admitted they became emotional at that point.

It's been a journey for the Penguins and these fans. When center Evgeni Malkin sustained an upper-body injury on March 11 while Pittsburgh was battling for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, some doubted if the Penguins would even qualify.

Three months later, the Penguins are champions.

The fans back at their home arena flooded its concourse. Some cried. A few jumped into another's arms. One fan stood in the middle of a swarm, fielding high-fives and bear-hugging strangers.

A shirtless man wearing a penguin-head bellowed out "We did it!" with tears streaming down his face. The scene was jubilant.

Penguins fans Abby Stark and Brandon Hickle rather calmly walked around the arena following the Cup presentation. Looking back at the past seven years, they thought adversity helped the Penguins and their fans appreciate this moment.

"I think they've definitely learned that it's not easy to do," Hickle said. "We've learned it along with them."

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