Pittsburgh native Nate Guenin is realizing a childhood dream by donning the Penguins crest and playing for the team he spent his youth supporting.
“Growing up I never thought I’d be putting that sweater on,” said Guenin, who was born in Sewickley and raised in Hopewell. “I dreamt of it. Now it’s actually coming true.
“Every time I step on this ice and look around I remember my dad bringing me to games during the Stanley Cup years. It’s cool being back here.”
The defenseman, who was called up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Monday, recalled how one Penguin legend helped shaped his life in the hockey world.
“My favorite player growing up was Ulf (Samuelsson),” Guenin said. “(I watched) him and tried to emulate my game after him.”
Guenin played hockey in Pittsburgh until his senior year of high school, spending much of that time with the Pittsburgh Hornets amateur hockey organization.
“I played for the Hornets all the way growing up,” Guenin said. “If it wasn’t for the Hornets I wouldn’t be here today.”
After leaving Pittsburgh, Guenin played junior hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. He spent the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons with the Gamblers before moving on to play four years at Ohio State University.
Guenin, who spent the past three seasons in the Philadelphia Flyers system before joining the WBS Penguins this year, is eager to share this homecoming experience with those who were close to him growing up.
I think that for all the guys that played the game growing up here it’s pretty exciting. Just to get back here and play in front of all your family and friends that supported you all the way up, they’re as jacked up as anybody. - Nate Guenin
“I think that for all the guys that played the game growing up here it’s pretty exciting,” Guenin said. “Just to get back here and play in front of all your family and friends that supported you all the way up, they’re as jacked up as anybody.”
But Guenin knows that keeping these emotions in check is crucial when game time rolls around.
“Once you get on the ice it’s all business,” Guenin said. “You’ve been playing the game your whole life, and as exciting as it is here, you’ve just got to (keep it) simple. So I won’t be getting too out of control out there.
“My game’s been the same my whole career: keep it simple, play hard, physical. That’s what I intend to do.”
This physicality was one of the things that garnered head coach Dan Bylsma’s attention, and became a key factor in him being brought into the Penguins system.
“I think the thing that impressed me the most about Nate last year, scouting him and saying ‘that’s the guy we need to get in our organization,’ is he can play with an edge defensively,” Bylsma said. “He can make guys pay for wanting to go into the hard areas, going into the net and in the corners.
“He brings that edge to your team against other team’s best lines.”
Guenin understands his role on the team as he helps fill in for a recent rash of defensive injuries (Sergei Gonchar, broken left wrist; Kris Letang
, shoulder contusion; Brooks Orpik
, lower body; Alex Goligoski, lower body).
“There’s a couple injuries up here,” Guenin said. “It’s just part of the game. Sometimes when it rains it pours. That’s why you just always have to be ready.
“I’ll just get in there and play my game. I’m feeling pretty confident in my abilities.”