While the Penguins may be a new team, newly acquired winger Lee Stempniak will see a number of familiar faces when he enters Pittsburgh's locker room for the first time.
He already knows three of his new teammates – Dartmouth classmate Tanner Glass, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Pyatt – and is grateful to have that comfort level with those guys to help ease the transition.
“I’ve known Tanner for a long time,” Stempniak said. “We played together two years at Dartmouth and we’ve always had a great relationship. I’m happy to be able to play with him. It should be fun. I know Brooks Orpik pretty well too, we’re both from the Buffalo area and both lived in Boston this summer. So there’s definitely a lot of familiar faces between those two and (playing) with Taylor Pyatt in Phoenix. So those three guys I know pretty well.
Glass and Orpik both reached out to their buddy immediately after learning he’d be joining their team, a gesture Stempniak appreciated.
“Tanner and Brooks both texted me right away,” Stempniak said. “It was just nice to hear from them and they offered any help they could, so I’m excited to get to see them and get to meet the rest of the guys.”
It’s easy to look at a guy’s stats and determine the kind of player he is from those, but what’s much more telling is hearing from somebody who knows him. And Glass said Stempniak's biggest asset, apart from his skating and scoring touch, is his work ethic – something that head coach Dan Bylsma also mentioned.
“He works at his game like crazy,” Glass said. “He was the last one off the ice in college. He really took care of himself. Very disciplined guy and disciplined player. He has some offensive instincts. He's a top-6 guy I would imagine. He's strong on the puck, a really good skater and he's smart. I see him fitting in really well."
And, according to Glass, that determination translated into the classroom.
“He was (a better student). 100 percent he was,” Glass laughed. “He was one of the best students that I played with. He was really smart and worked really hard. His work ethic is second to none.”
Stempniak laughingly agreed that he probably was the more dedicated student, saying “I think so, yeah. Which is nice of him to say. But I really, with Dartmouth, tried to take advantage of the opportunity I had to go to school there. It’s a great school and I loved it. The hockey was great, but at the same time, I knew I had the opportunity to graduate and get a degree from an Ivy League school, so I definitely worked hard at school too and I feel really lucky this worked out where I was able to graduate and play in the NHL.”
After hearing that, and how highly Glass spoke of Stempniak, it’s apparent that the Penguins haven’t just gotten a great hockey player, but a great human being.
“He's a guy of the highest character,” Glass said. “His work ethic, the way he prepares, the kind of guy he is, he's a real salt of the earth guy. A really good person.”