How the Kessel traded landed Steve Dangle a Stanley Cup Final trip

The Penguins got a late goal from Nick Bonino to break a 2-2 tie after blowing a 2-0 lead, giving them a series opening win against the Sharks.

Sports are amazing. Social media is amazing. People are amazing.

Never in a million years did I think this…

Would turn into this:

For those of you who don’t know the story by now, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1, 2015. The next day, Mike Darnay of the SB Nation blog Pensburgh tweeted that he would buy me a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final if Phil Kessel and the Penguins made it there. Just under 11 months later, I’m at Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. On Memorial Day, no less.

I grew up in Toronto, or Scarborough before the amalgamation if we’re splitting hairs, as a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I still am. That being said, I’ve never been to a Leafs playoff game. Part of this is due to the rarity of the Leafs’ presence in the playoffs, the rest is due to the fact that I’m not a millionaire.

If you ever have the chance though, if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the team you support in the playoffs, or better yet the Stanley Cup Final – go. Don’t think about it twice. Go.

The energy is infectious; not just in the arena but in the entire city. Everyone is in a good mood and everyone is excited. Whether you’re a local or an out-of-towner who doesn’t sleep well before morning flights, you can’t help but get up for the game. And that’s before you even walk in the doors.

I had never seen the blue playoff paint in person. It’s a small thing, it’s probably a stupid thing too, but it was one of the first things I noticed. Everybody is wearing yellow; we all received free yellow shirts on the way in and you may not know this about me but free things are one of my passions.

The fans are loud in Pittsburgh and they have the loudest goal horn I’ve ever heard. You know that kind of loud when you can actually feel your inner ear vibrate? That kind of loud where you can actually feel how bad it is for you? It was that loud and it was awesome.

Before the game began I couldn’t help but think to myself “I can’t wait for this to happen in Toronto.” I want that for this fanbase so bad. If your team has never won the Cup or even been to the Cup Final, I want it for you, too.

I love social media and owe my career to it but there is nothing as amazing as seeing the real thing live. You can watch 100 hockey games every season and you still won’t have a full grasp of Sidney Crosby’s greatness until you see him in person. You can make friends on Twitter but there was something incredible about how much sportsmanship Penguins and Sharks fans showed each other on the NHL’s grandest scale.

This is being published on a Canadian website so it’s a fair assumption that most of the people reading this cheer for a Canadian hockey team. It’s also a fair assumption that your team had a bad season or about a decade of bad seasons.

When the time comes, and you have to believe it will come eventually, you have to see it to believe it. You can send a few tweets or snaps, you can post a couple things to your Instagram, but just make sure you look up and experience it for yourself. You never know when you’ll have another chance.

Enjoy the rest of the series!

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