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.”
- Update: Drouin out with upper body injury, not expected to miss preseason 0
- Report: NHL officials to participate in preseason without new CBA 1
- Evander Kane: I know I can score 50 goals 12
- ‘C’-less Thornton comes out swing against Wilson’s ‘tomorrow team’ talk 18
- Joe Sakic’s now general manager in name too 6
- Update: Giroux out two weeks with lower-body injury 26
- Update: Crosby on ice with Penguins teammates Friday, leaves early 5
- Ouch: Wild reportedly suspend Harding for ‘non-hockey injury’ 28
- Keeping Kuemper: Wild sign goalie to two-year deal reportedly worth $2.5M 15
- Selanne regrets harsh words toward Boudreau 10
- Heeeeeere’s Johnny! Davidson shreds Johansen’s agent for ‘baffling, nonsensical’ contract demands (65)
- Chiarelli: At some point, I’m going to have to trade a defenseman (56)
- Jackets reveal Johansen offers — including an eight year, $46M deal (55)
- Will the NHL publicize divers? (48)
- No icing on the PK? The USHL will see how that looks (43)