If you asked me to list my top five favorite NHL players right now, this list would probably look like this:
- Sidney Crosby
- Jordan Staal
- Kris Letang
- Brooks Orpik
- Ryan Kesler
(Typing that list also feels kind of like that scene in Austin Powers, where he lists everyone he knew and what they’re dead from – “Mama Cass, deceased, ham sandwich” – except with injuries.)
Anyway. That’s the list. I have jerseys for #1-2, I have tee-shirts for #3-5, though #5 doesn’t play for the Penguins. (One of two non-Pittsburgh athlete shirts I own. I’ll give you a candy bar if you name the other.) My love for Sidney Crosby is eternal, because without him, I would no longer have a hockey team to cheer for. My love for Jordan Staal is almost as strong. I think he’s one hell of a hockey player, and I think my adoration of him is compounded by my dad’s hatred of him up until this season. I have spent many text messages and arguments defending Staal and felt immense satisfaction when my dad (the source of all my hockey knowledge) finally came around to my side this year.
So there’s the background. I found myself watching the Pens/Devils game from a suite yesterday afternoon, and as fortune would have it, our suite was two doors down from the Pens suite. The first person we saw when we got to the suite level was none other than Billy Guerin – a former Penguin player and now member of the scouting staff, who was so awesome and badass that one year I named my fantasy football team after him.
I kind of freaked out a little. I spent half the (absolutely awful) game watching the Pens suite, half because I was really interested in watching the GM watch the game, and half because I couldn’t believe Billy Guerin was just over there. I had a brief run in with him during the first intermission, where we were both exiting the restrooms at the same time, and I had the perfect opportunity to say something to him (“Hey, I named my fantasy football team after you,” or “Hey, one summer my friend and I watched this about 800 times. Did Doofy ever catch on?”) and couldn’t say anything. I did manage a smile, and got a smile in return, and that was enough.
That encounter was nothing, though.
During the second intermission, I wanted to get a snack, and I wanted to hurry out to the food stands to hopefully beat the crowds. So I push the door open, hurry out in search of food… and nearly run directly in to Jordan Staal.
Jordan Staal. The guy whose return to the Winter Classic last year made me scream when I read the news. The guy who I have loved from his first day as a Pen. The guy who won us the Stanley Cup. (What’s that, Brenna? Max Talbot scored both goals in game 7? Well, without this, there is no game 7.)
Standing right outside our suite, and me almost running into him and (dear God, I would have died) re-injuring the knee he’s been rehabbing for weeks.
Did I say anything to him? Did I tell him how much I loved the way he plays hockey? That I hoped he’d get back in the lineup soon? That my Twitter friends, in a poll, voted that I wear his jersey to the game, but instead I went with Crosby’s? Did I even muster a “Hi, Jordan”?
I pretty much ran past him, completely in a state of shock that I had just encountered him. Billy Guerin was bad enough, but this was on a whole new level.
When I met Sidney Crosby a few years ago, I was able to form a few coherent sentences, though my mom is still mad at me for not telling him I was from Pittsburgh. But I was prepared for him. I knew I was going to meet him, and I spent half the day scripting those few sentences in my mind. If I learned anything yesterday, though, it’s that I have absolutely no cool under pressure, and that there is a reason the fates generally keep me away from celebrities. I’ve completely given up on Brooks Orpik spotting me in a bar and realizing he’s in love with me, because if he actually came up to me, I’d probably duck under a table and hide.
So in case Jordan Staal frequents blogs about single girls living in Manhattan, I’d like to take this chance to say it was nice nearly running into him yesterday. I’m glad he didn’t appear to be limping at all and hope that’s a sign that he’ll be back on the ice soon. I hope he wasn’t too weirded out by the girl in the Crosby jersey running away, and if we ever encounter each other again, I’ll at least have an opening line.