I can’t help it. I grew up an hour north of Hockeytown — before it was called by that name.
The Red Wings are as much a part of my DNA as a sports fan as the other teams I follow from my native area.
In most years, following the Red Wings won’t create the situation it did this year. However, living 90 minutes away from Pittsburgh and hosting a daily radio show in Penguins’ country, the Stanley Cup final series between “The Wearers of the Winged Wheel” and the “Pens” (or “Guinies” as Jim Gregory calls them) made things interesting.
Friends, colleagues and show listeners know my allegiance so I don’t try to hide it. In fact, I literally broadcast it.
Even so, I tried, as much as possible, to keep my mouth shut off the air and stay objective on the air. You know what they say about best-laid plans.
Around the area, I would bump into friends and acquaintances before and during the series. Inevitably, the conversation would begin with some banter about the Pens-Wings matchup. Same thing with phone calls and e-mails during the business day.
I couldn’t get away from it.
On the air, I decided to have some fun with it and place a bet with Penguins’ fans.
If the Red Wings won, the contestant Penguins fan would have to display a jarred octopus in their office or home for a week (with the cap off to enjoy the full experience).
If the Penguins claimed the Cup, I would have to do as the contestant asked.
It didn’t take long before Curve radio announcer/media relations assistant Dan Zangrilli sent me a text message and placed the winning counter-wager. He said I would have to don a Penguins’ jersey and cap, throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a game at Blair County Ballpark, and be subject to an embarrassing public address announcement from Rich DeLeo.
Without a doubt, it was a bet I didn’t want to lose.
Of course, as is the case with most series, emotions took a ride on the proverbial Skyliner during the six-game final series.
The Red Wings looked dominant in the first two games, only to see the Penguins flex their Igloo muscles in the third game. Detroit eked out a knee-knocking win in Game Four, only to see Max Talbot, Petr Sykora, and Marc-Andre Fleury dash its home-ice celebration with a pulsating, three-overtime classic.
Seriously, does sports get any better than that?
Then, just as many thought the Pens would return home, win and force a Game 7, Detroit showed its experience, resolve, and talent to claim the Cup.
It didn’t come, though, without the Black and Gold, with their never-say-die attitude, forcing the Wings to sweat it out in the final seconds.
I’m thankful Talbot wasn’t near the net again.
Naturally, I’m very happy with the result. Aside from buying a few trinkets to commemorate the event and a gift from Zangrilli from a seafood establishment, I’ll stay down.
I learned long ago not to gloat about such things. Now, I’ve just got to find my maize-and-blue sweatshirt in time for October 18.
Like I said: I can’t help it.
Rob Egan is the host of ‘‘Front & Center’’ on ESPN Radio 1430, Altoona and ESPN Radio 1450, State College. It airs weekdays from 4-6 p.m. He is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan.