A year ago, I was in the same arena editing the same photos. The LED background was the same, the lights were largely the same, most of the faces were the same and the Stanley Cup was definitely the same.
The biggest difference?
It's not that the banner reads 2016-17 instead of 2015-16.
See, during this ceremony Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena, I stood 20 feet from the spot I stood in just a year ago, and I photographed the same guys as they were recognized to start the 2017-18 season. Last year, however, I was shooting my first Penguins regular-season game. I didn't feel all that different from Mike Condon, who was on the ice but wasn't a Stanley Cup winner. He stood watching a banner go up for a Cup he didn't earn.
Well, I was shooting an event honoring a team that I didn't cover, and I wondered if I'd ever get the chance to live out my dream of covering an NHL team through a Stanley Cup win.
In fact, just weeks before I was hired, I sat on a couch watching the Penguins finish off the Sharks and I dreamed of being one of the handful of photographers on the ice photographing the Cup-hoisting antics.
So, watching the 2016-17 banner go up was different from the last time because I worked my tail off documenting last season's journey from World Cup tuneups to Game 6 in Nashville. I didn't win the Stanley Cup, but it sure felt good this time documenting those who did.
Among those who probably felt a bit like I did last season were Matt Hunwick, Greg McKegg and Ryan Reaves. Believe me, they were confused during the ceremony.
Things started out well, Reaves delivering a wave and a fist pump toward the cameras as he took his place in line. The new guys were called out ahead of the Stanley Cup champs.
Reaves and Co. hit the ice, waited as everyone was announced and then had some laughs at Reaves' own expense. After the rest of the guys were recognized, they moved closer to the banner as the raising was scheduled to start.
All of the new Penguins held back, allowing the ring-toting majority to move forward for the ceremony. All of them ... except for Reaves who skated up with his new team. He kind of glanced over his right shoulder, realized the other new guys were holding back and burst into a smile and laughter as he spun back and retreated.
The new Penguins stood confused for a minute — unsure of whether to join or to watch as their new teammates were recognized. All of a sudden, former Penguins' assistant Pierre McGuire yelled to Reaves, "Get up there with them. Go ahead. Seriously, go stand behind them."
A couple teammates looked back in what felt like approval, and cheers erupted throughout PPG Paints Arena as the new guys joined. The banner started to rise at the same time, which is what the cheers were definitely aimed at, but it felt like the crowd was approving of the new faces.
The rest of the players don't have quite the story to go along with them — it was a pretty straightforward process of skating onto the ice, being recognized and then hanging around until banner number five was high in the rafters.
Just because I don't have a story like Reaves provided doesn't mean you guys don't get to see the photos, though, so let's get to the rest:
[caption id="attachment_446401" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Matt Murray applauds the crowd as he's announced. A two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, but first-time undisputed number one goaltender. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
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