Pen(s) Pals

We Like Pittsburgh. Honest.

It’s a lot easier to say nice things about our new pals from Pittsburgh, Adam and Mike, after last night’s Caps OT win (Hi Dennis!) over their Pens. Bitter rivalries exist among the various writers here, but despite engaging in tribal warfare in the evenings, we’re still brothers during the day. Pistols at dusk, but cocktails follow.

Adam and Mike are organizing a gay team in Pittsburgh. Like Pete, Ryan, Brian and Jeff, these two actually play the game, unlike the rest of us who just sit around flipping spit and talking trash.

Yesterday, we went 5v5 (5 questions in 5 minutes) with Adam and Mike, to learn more about their playing careers and passion for the game. At the end, Mike tells us a freakin’ cute story of how they met and became a couple.  And if we’re lucky, and they have the bandwidth, they may contribute articles on their Penguins.

They had an organizational meeting on Thursday to recruit players and had a very good turnout. After they assemble the squad, we’ll bid for naming rights. We think we’ve settled on the right name – The Briefs. That way, they can square off against Jeff’s NYCGHA team, the Boxers. Briefs vs. Boxers – the game recaps will write themselves. - Craig

1. Where are you guys from originally and when did you become hockey fans (fave teams, players, etc.) and when did you start playing?

Adam: “I grew up in Indiana outside of Chicago.  I actually wasn’t much of a Hawks fan as a kid, though; instead, I was drawn to the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins.  My favorite players were Valeri Kamensky, Miroslav Satan, Alexei Kovalev, and Martin Straka.  I basically had (and still have) a thing for super-skilled Europeans who were known at times for underachieving [Ed. Note: Hi Sasha!].

Despite being a lifelong fan of the sport, I didn’t start playing until June of 2008.  My parents didn’t want to shell out a ton of money for the equipment when I was younger, and they weren’t exactly keen on practices at midnight, which I can appreciate in hindsight.  During a Penguins/Flyers playoff game in 2008, I decided to Google “gay hockey” rather than sit through another Dockers commercial and instantly found the New York City Gay Hockey Association, and I was on the ice within a month or so.” 

Mike: “I am actually from the Pittsburgh area.  I started skating at the local rink when I was 4 but dropped out soon after because they dressed me up as a pink bunny – not kidding.  Then I watched as the Pens won two cups when I was in high school – totally got me hooked on the sport again.  I went to college at Cornell which also has one of the best hockey programs in the country.  After watching them play for 3 years I finally took a class at Cornell which was the beginning of my hockey career.  A year later I moved to NYC and a friend read about the NYCGHA.  So I was one of the earlier members back when they got started 11 years ago.”

2. What does being a gay hockey fan/player mean to you? What do your non-fan pals think about your passions? Have you ever been able to turn any gay guys into fans

Adam: “It’s funny because, generally speaking, I have always felt more like a hockey player and fan who happens to be gay more than a gay hockey player/fan, if that makes any sense.  At the end of the day, my love of the game doesn’t differ any from any other fan’s or player’s.  That being said, it’s great to be a part of a community of gay hockey players and fans because, as many of us will tell you, you realize you’re not alone, and you can relate in a wider variety of ways.  And when homophobia is still as active and unfortunately rampant as it’s been shown to be, especially in sports like hockey, that goes a long way. 

All of my friends and family who aren’t as much into hockey are incredibly supportive of my involvement in the game as a participant or spectator.  If anything, they realize how much joy it really brings me, even if it’s just a game, and I’m ultimately a better, healthier person as a result of it.  I’m not sure I’ve actually converted any gay guys into hockey fans, come to think of it, but there are some other friends out there who now seem to have more hockey knowledge or appreciation.”

Mike: “Being a hockey fan means never knowing what the cools bars are on saturday nights because you spend every one at the rink.  Being a hockey player means checking more bags on to a flight for a hockey tournament than all my other checked bags for a year.  Being a hockey fan means having your boyfriend wake you up at 1am to tell you that the Pens won on the west coast road trip but you were too tired to watch it.  Being a hockey player means walking to the rink during an insane blizzard when almost no one could make the game and the city shut down – and loving every second of it.”

3. Are the Pens your true loves or do you share your affections with other teams? If so, who and why?

Adam: “My heart belongs to the Penguins, but I do appreciate some other teams in the league.  Since I don’t have to worry about them until the big dance, I find myself pulling for the Anaheim Ducks, and I think Lubomir Visnovsky is the most criminally underrated defenseman in the league.  And as much as I talk smack about them, I’ll always respect the Detroit Red Wings for being such a consistently well-run, talented group.”

Mike: There are no other teams but the Pens.  Well sometimes there are the Habs.

4. What’s involved in getting a PGH gay team up and running (rink time and recruiting)?  What outreach are you doing? 

Adam: Meetup is the best tool for building local community, so I definitely wanted to utilize that.  We’re also reaching out to local gay-owned and gay-operated businesses and organizations to help spread the word and, with any luck, find a sponsor.  Mike has a lot more experience in this area since he actually had some success putting together a team here a few years back, so it’s been an interesting learning experience for me trying to work out logistics, seek out interested parties, and all of the other details. 

Being a part of the NYCGHA has made things easier, I think, in terms of getting a better sense of what we wanted to accomplish and how to get it done.  Having the ability to draw on their experiences, as well as those of other leagues and associations like Chicago’s, is such a valuable resource when trying to start things out here.  There’s going to be some trial and error involved, and it’s going to be a slow, organic process, but I think it’s going to be worth the hard work and effort.

Mike: This is the second time we’ve tried to get a gay hockey group together in Pittsburgh.  I think the biggest challenge is in advertising and getting the word out there.  It’s easy to get discouraged because there is so much to do in order to get this running. 

Fortunately after talking to some of the other cities this is a common problem and the advice is to just stick with it.  I think we are going to be much more successful now that we have a core group.  And success doesn’t mean having everything figured out right away – this will take time to get it right and make it our own but I know a lot of people are excited about it.”

5. Which is the more insufferable fan base, Caps or Flyers?

Adam: “Oh, God.  You know, the Flyers fans can be rather goony and downright mean, but I can respect them and they’ve really been on the cusp and know how to play as a team and win.  I’d have to say that the Capitals’ fan base is more insufferable because for all of the President’s Trophies and Southeast Division titles they have amassed, they haven’t even really come that close to winning the one that matters.  They can keep rocking the red and handing out pacifiers at the Verizon Center while cheering on the greatest pure goal-scorer in the league, ’cause for now, they’re about as relevant as Alexander Semin in the postseason (just sayin’).”

Mike:  ”I basically lived in DC 10 years ago and the games were empty.  Caps fans nowadays are all bandwagon/fair weather.  So therefore I vote that Flyers fans are the worst.”

OT:  How do you think the Pens do this season?

Adam: “With or without Crosby, this is a team that’s going to be in the ballpark of 100-105 points and battling with Philly for the top spot in the Atlantic.  Provided they stay healthy, I don’t think a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is out of the question.  Frankly, I’d be disappointed with anything less.”

 Mike: “Pens will at least make second round but probably more depending on how Crosby and Malkin do this season.”

Shootout:  Pick the date as close as you can for Crosby’s return to the lineup.

Adam: “I hate doing this, but I’ll just toss out November 21st against the Islanders [Ed. Note: Retract your fangs, Vinny].  I just hope he comes back at all.

Mike: “I expect Crosby to come back in mid November.  By the way, Adam and I met through hockey.  We met at a (NYCGHA) Chelsea Challenge 3 years ago and have been together ever since. 

In fact the main reason I started talking to him is because he had a Penguins hat on lol. [Ed. Note: Awwwwwwwwww!]“

You can follow Adam on the twitters @adamkno, and the team @Pghgayhockey. The team website

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About adamkno

Pittsburgh Penguins. Airports. Pilsner Urquell. (Gay) Hockey. Pens contributor @PuckBuddys. Maďarský guláš. Français. Português.
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4 Responses to Pen(s) Pals

  1. david says:

    and down goes beagle!!!!!!
    go pens!

    ~ cheers…

  2. Adam, I’m going to put this quote on a plaque that you can display in your home: “I’ll always respect the Detroit Red Wings for being such a consistently well-run, talented group.”

  3. Adam says:

    Jeff, I have to give credit where it’s due. Even when it hurts.

  4. Matthew Skolnikoff says:

    Mike – I aim to make you a Canadiens fan more than just “sometimes”! Good luck, guys, with starting up the Pittsburgh gay hockey team. Hope you guys do end up writing something for Puckbuddys because it would be interesting to hear more from/about guys who are playing hockey who also happen to be gay. Best wishes ~ Matt

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