May 28, 2013, 3:27 PM EDT
It all must be a little surreal for Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski.
A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon, Bartkowski is about to face off against the team he used to support as a youngster, with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.
Oh, and one of his Boston teammates happens to be one of his boyhood idols, Jaromir Jagr.
In fact, Bartkowski, 24, told reporters today that he grew up with posters of Jagr and Mario Lemieux on his wall.
He also credited Lemieux, now the owner of the Penguins, for playing hockey in the first place.
“I was part of the Lemieux era and I probably wouldn’t have been skating if he wasn’t there,” said Bartkowski, per Dan Cagen of the MetroWest Daily News.
Before Pittsburgh drafted Lemieux first overall in 1984, the Penguins were on the verge of financial collapse. Average attendance at the old Civic Arena was a mere 6,839 during the 1983-84 season, which saw the Pens post a record of 16-58-6. (See: this Sports Illustrated article.)
Fast forward to the present (past another financial crisis barely averted for the club) and it’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin that are helping youth-hockey participation rates skyrocket in Western Pennsylvania.
“It’s kind of cool that I get to play playoffs in my home town,” Bartkowski said, “but at the end of the day I’m on Boston and that’s Pittsburgh and we’re there to win.”
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ 0
- Video: ‘It’s not the ideal situation,’ says OT hero Vermette of being a healthy scratch 5
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks 50
- Video: Ducks score three goals in 37 seconds to take third-period lead 9
- WATCH LIVE: Ducks at Blackhawks, Western Conference Final Game 4 0
- Cooper on replacing Bishop: ‘That is asinine to me’ 25
- Vermette, Teravainen return for Blackhawks in Game 4 15
- Comeback fit for a King: Lundqvist, Rangers even series in Game 4 24
- Fetisov wants to restrict young Russians from playing in the NHL 53
- All eyes on Lundqvist 11
- Reports: Sabres thought they had a deal with Babcock, aren’t happy (174)
- Leafs land Babcock with reported 8-year deal, estimated at $50 million (130)
- Russia to be punished for ‘completely out of order’ actions after Worlds final loss to Canada (91)
- Report: Sabres negotiating with Babcock (82)
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? (70)