The Penguins bring smiles to millions of faces each time they take the ice, but they brought a smile to the face of a particular young fan on Sunday hours before facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
Noah Brocklebank, a 13-year-old Penguins fan from Columbia, Md., was invited to the team’s morning skate and game against their cross-state rivals after they saw his story. It received international attention when a CBS report detailed his experience with bullying, which led him to announce a suicide attempt on social media (read the full story here).
|Noah meets Penguins captain Sidney Crosby |
After the video of Noah, wearing a Marc-Andre Fleury t-shirt, was released, he received support from around the globe – including a taped message from Fleury, Tomas Vokoun, Kris Letang and Matt Cooke, saying they couldn't wait to meet him on Sunday.
And Noah said he was never as happy as he was today, when he took in the skate from Suite 66 before heading down to the Penguins locker room to meet the players.
“It’s just amazing,” Noah said. “Just meeting everyone, it’s a really amazing experience.”
Fleury, Noah’s favorite player, was the first Penguin to greet him. The two chatted about Noah’s affinity for the Pens despite residing close to Washington, D.C, the home of the Capitals. His mother, Karen Brocklebank, a Pittsburgh native, said “black and gold runs through [Noah’s] veins.”
As Fleury and his wife Veronique are expecting their first child, the soon-to-be dad said he was especially sensitive to Noah’s story.
“I think [bullying is] not just a story that happens on TV,” Fleury said. “I think it happens to a lot of kids and we have to be worried as parents. So if I can help – make him smile and make him feel welcome here and chat him up a little bit – that will be nice.”
Each Penguin either approached Noah or patiently waited for him at their locker stalls as he made his way around the room. Then as Noah talked to reporters, Robert Bortuzzo playfully placed Kris Letang’s helmet on his head – bringing a wide smile to his face.
When he was asked if he would take the helmet home with him, Noah laughed and said, “I don’t know.” While Noah will have to return Letang’s lid, Fleury gave him one last souvenir – his goalie stick signed by all of the Penguins.
Due to his experience Sunday and the letters he’s received from thousands of people around the world, Noah said he now has a different outlook on life.
“I think people are really nice,” he said, ”and I think that people really do care about me. I feel a lot better now and I don’t have those feelings anymore.”
Karen said she was astounded by the support her son has received from the Penguins and in the letters, saying they have restored her faith in humanity.
“I’m just so honored that the Penguins have done this for him,” Karen said. “To see him lifted up like this, I’m so grateful and I’m so thankful to the Penguins organization. There’s just nothing like Pittsburgh.”