(Colin and Jack Gaiser with Dan Bylsma)
On Military Appreciation Night, the honoring of veterans is the main theme throughout the evening.
And the Penguins honored one very special former Marine on Wednesday night whose story warranted a very special meeting with head coach Dan Bylsma before the game.
Bylsma greeted Jack Gaiser, a veteran of World War II and Marine stationed at Pearl Harbor, and his son Colin before Wednesday night’s game against Philadelphia.
Bylsma welcomed the Gaiser’s outside the Penguins locker room and delivered Jack a personalized camouflage jersey.
“It is a pleasure to have it,” the elder Gaiser said. “I am a big Penguins fan.”
The Penguins hosted 11 military veterans at morning skate and many more vets on Wednesday evening for all the Military Appreciation Night festivities.
Veterans attended Wednesday’s game as special guests of the team and its corporate partners – some being hosted in Evgeni Malkin’s charity suite, and others receiving tickets form ATI, PNC and the National Flag Foundation. In addition, veterans also took part in Zamboni rides before the game and during intermissions.
Colin Gaiser, a Penguins season ticket holder, said just the opportunity to bring his father to a game would have been enough.
“It is just a dream of mine to bring him here and for you guys to honor him, it is really great and we can’t thank you enough,” he said.
Gaiser was greeted by a rousing standing ovation at the eight-minute mark of the first period from the crowd of 18,000-plus at CONSOL Energy Center.
Bylsma talked after practice about the importance of hosting members of the armed forces, especially after celebrating Veterans Day on Monday.
"A lot of them have Pittsburgh ties and you can see them looking at our players with respect and looking up to them, but the true lesson is from them and their sacrifice,” Bylsma said. “And what they’ve given is something we can’t match.”