Whenever Phil Kessel would score a goal, Ben Hines would send his brother Brandon the meme of his Team USA headshot surrounded by American flags and bald eagles.
"We just love him," Brandon said. "My brother always wore American flag stuff and he just thought of him as a true American. He was a big fan of his."
Although the 31-year-old Ben grew up in York, Pa., he and his 19-year-old brother shared a passion for the Penguins thanks to their father, who is a Pittsburgh sports fan and passed that down to his sons regardless of where the family lived.
Ben and Brandon had planned to attend Game 4 against the New York Islanders last Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena, purchasing tickets in advance. But before they could go, Ben, a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, was killed in Afghanistan on April 8 - just days before he was expected to return.
Before the game, the Penguins honored Brandon as the Hometown Hero in Ben's memory.
"I wish he was there to be recognized, not me," Brandon said. "He was the biggest role model in my life. He was just the biggest person I looked up to."
Though Ben only played one season of hockey himself because his parents couldn't afford it while he was growing up, he loved the game and taught his brother as much as he could.
Brandon, who started skating at a young age, ended up playing on the varsity hockey team at Pine-Richland for three years and graduated in 2018.
"He was the one who taught me how to stick lift because when I used to play defense, I was really passive on that," Brandon recalled. "So he taught me stick lifting at a Stick Time session once, and I almost took his fingers off because he didn't have gloves."
He and Ben tried to attend Penguins games together whenever possible.
"We went to a Penguins-Capitals game back in D.C. where he lived and I lived at the time," Brandon said before adding with a laugh, "He went to a bunch of those games because his fiancé was a Capitals fan and we always harassed her about being one."
After Ben graduated from Dallastown High School in the spring of 2006, he joined the Marines that fall. His first deployment to Afghanistan was from September 2008 to April 2009.
His second deployment began this past October, when Ben returned to Afghanistan as part of a program in which Marines train and advise Georgian infantry troops that the former Soviet Republic contributes to the NATO mission there.
Ben was close to completing his second deployment when tragically, he and two other Marines died in a car bombing outside of Bagram Air Field just a week before he planned to attend a Penguins playoff game with his brother.
Brandon still went, and stood in honor of his brother during the pre-game ceremony.
"I just want to thank everyone at the Penguins for letting that happen," Brandon said. "It just shows what kind of organization it is and what the sport of hockey does, compared to any other sport, that just makes it so special."