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Pens have huge supporter across the pond

by Jeff Carpenter @penguins / Pittsburgh Penguins

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

One of the many great things about the sport of hockey is its ability to transcend borders. The International Ice Hockey Federation currently holds 54 countries as full members, with another 21 serving as associate members, as the game continues to grow around the world.

The National Hockey League is looking to seize this opportunity to grow the game and gain more fans globally. They hosted the NHL China Games in Shanghai and Beijing this preseason, where the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks faced off in a pair of preseason contests. The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators played two regular season games in Sweden this month as part of the NHL Global Series.

While the NHL is trying to reach out to different countries and gain more fans, they don't have to press any more for Scotland's Kyle Donald. He's already hooked. So much so that he recently traveled to Ottawa to see his favorite team, the Penguins, take on the Senators on his birthday, which was Nov. 16. 

Tweet from @penguins: This is Kyle.Kyle is Scottish.It's Kyle's birthday.He traveled all the way from Scotland for tonight's game.He loves Pittsburgh and the Penguins.Everyone say hello to Kyle. ��

"I've got friends in Toronto, my birthday is today," Donald said that night. "So a great chance to come out to Ottawa and see the Pens. Can't turn down that opportunity."

Tweet from @penguins: Update: Kyle liked your birthday wishes. Now, let's play some hockey.

Kyle's fandom started on a business trip to Pittsburgh in 2014, when he found the time to take in a Penguins game against the Rangers.

"I went by myself, fell in love with the Penguins, my first hockey game ever," he said. "Then went to see them against the Canadiens, and I'm here again."

The Penguins' 3-1 win over the Senators was Donald's first win live in three tries, and it won't be the last as hockey has become a big part of life for the Aberdeen native.

"It wasn't until I could see my first Pens game in 2014," Donald said. "I played a lot of soccer, but now hockey has taken over from soccer. It's great. Interest has peaked. I've now got subscriptions to hockey channels, buying more gear. Hopefully one day If I have kids, my kids will play hockey."

One of the biggest challenges of being a fan overseas is watching games, especially when there are time zone differences involved. Scotland is five hours ahead of Pittsburgh, but Donald has continued to find a way to stay informed on how his Penguins team is performing.

"I record the games," Donald said. "They're on quite late, midnight or 1 a.m., so I record them and watch them the next day or a couple days later."

However, with the Penguins' recent playoff success, Donald has made sure to watch the games live when they matter most.

"When they won the Stanley Cup in 2016, I stayed up all night, until 5 a.m. watching (Game 5 against San Jose)," he said. "They didn't win it in that game, but then I watched it again and they finally won it. That was probably my favorite moment, just sitting there watching the 2016 Stanley Cup win, thinking I'd never see it. Then back in 2017, they did it again, so I've seen two Stanley Cups."

Donald's enthusiasm for the game has been infectious to some of his friends as well, who are also learning to love the sport of hockey.

"We actually had a little bit of a party," Donald said. "Myself and two other guys, and now a couple of my other fans are hockey fans as well. It's pretty exciting."

The sport of hockey has led to him having a new favorite city across the pond, too.

"Coming into the city, the bridges, you come through the tunnel and see the whole city, the three rivers, it's awesome," Donald said.

"And…" Donald paused. "Penguins hockey, it's awesome."

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