In Their Own Words


Sunday, June 11th, Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Nashville Predators

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

Pittsburgh Penguins Superfan


story by: Sandeep


I still get chills when I think about last year’s Stanley Cup run and my experience with Gift of The Cup. Before I get into the details of my story, here’s a bit more about myself. My name is Sandeep, and I’ve been a Pittsburgh Pens fan since the age of 3 when my family moved to Pittsburgh, PA from Somewhere, New Jersey (where I was supposedly born). I often lie and say I was born and raised in Pittsburgh because I have a lot of Pittsburgh pride, and I have no doubt you would too if you were raised there. Growing up and learning about Penguins legends and all they have done for the city and fans impacted my upbringing. Having role models with endless generosity and insane work ethics like Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby (to name a few) has contributed to the type of person I am today and has paved a path for the type of person I hope to become.

More recently, I’ve been studying medicine and researching cancer at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. My worlds collided when Nashville and Pittsburgh both made it into the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. It had been a while since a team made it into back-to-back Finals (’08 and ’09 Red Wings and Pens). Moreover, Nashville had never been to the Finals before. As a Pens fan living in Nashville (only 10 minutes away from Bridgestone Arena), I found myself in an unpredictable and lucky position. Unfortunately, game tickets were hard to get. The price and availability were hurdles I couldn’t overcome on my own. So close, yet so far.

The series was exciting and worthy of a documentary, but let’s please fast forward to Game 5. The Pens had just shutout the Nashville Predators 6-0 to break the series tie for a too-close-for-comfort 3-2 lead. I was on Reddit’s “Postgame Thread” reading and commenting as usual (gargantuan shout out to the awesome mods and fans of On Reddit, I mentioned being in Nashville but unable to get a ticket to Game 6. Someone on Reddit (you know who you are!!) sent me a tip about Gift of The Cup, and I quickly checked out the Twitter account and website. Right off the bat, Brett seemed like an exceptionally generous person, and his story on the website was very touching. It was around 1 or 2 A.M. when this all went down, and I was incredibly tired. Despite the fatigue, I stayed up for a while and submitted an essay to Gift of The Cup explaining my situation and love for the Penguins.

Outside Bridgstone Arena
Outside Bridgestone Arena crowd

Since moving out of Pennsylvania, I haven’t been able to catch my Pens very often. Even regular season games have gotten to be a significant amount of cash as the team has gotten more corporate, and as I moved further and further away from Pittsburgh, the frequency continued to diminish. Just the thought of being able to attend a Stanley Cup Final game would have never crossed my mind, let alone the cup clincher.

I decided to write my story to Brett not only for the miniscule chance that it would be chosen, but because it felt great to write. Aggregating all of my emotional connections and reliving the memories that the Penguins have been a part of was therapeutic. If there was any possible way to get more stoked for game five of the Stanley Cup Final, a potential closeout game for the black and gold, this was it. Off the email went into the cyber void, with no expectation of ever being read.

I figured a lot of people message Gift of The Cup every year, so I submitted my essay and tried to forget about it. But Game Day eventually came around, and I wondered if Gift of the Cup had read my essay. Part of me wanted to believe it was all going to work out, and part of me was trying to be rational about my chances of winning. Around noon, I started driving myself clinically insane. In addition to being overly anxious about the upcoming game, and I was starting to grow a deep sense of regret for not securing a ticket through some other means. Why hadn’t I made a Kickstarter/crowdfunding account? Why wasn’t I downtown scalping for tickets? Why hadn’t I posted to every hockey forum on the internet in search of tickets? I would never forgive myself for missing such a rare opportunity in my own backyard.

I put on my headphones and went for a walk around campus to calm my nerves. Almost an hour of walking later, my girlfriend at the time called me, forcing me to look down at my cellphone. This is when I realized I had a Twitter notification and an unread email in my inbox. I’m not a very active Tweeter, so this caught me off guard a bit. And then I remembered I had messaged Gift of The Cup on Twitter. I could feel my heart pounding. I freaked out in excitement when I realized it was indeed Gift of The Cup replying to my essay. I totally disregarded my girlfriend’s (now ex) phone call and quickly made my way home to respond to the messages. I was very out of shape at the time, but I must have broken some personal records running home that afternoon. After a few brief emails and exchanging phone numbers, Brett called and said something along the lines of, “Sandeep, welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals!” I absolutely lost it – it was such an epic phone call. This was actually happening. I was going to see the Pens attempt a back-to-back Stanley Cup victory in person, in Nashville. Woah. Just woah. I reached out to some family and friends about what had happened, but no one believed me. They thought it was tasteless joke. After all, who in the world could be this generous to a complete stranger?

The rest of that day remains one of the most memorable days of my life, and it will probably remain on my personal Top 10 forever. I offered to meet up with Brett a bit before the game for dinner at a local favorite. It’s the least I could do. We clicked quickly. Brett has wisdom beyond his years, and I have a great appreciation for his values, work ethic, and drive. Bottom line, the world would be a better place if we all took a page out of Brett’s book. I hope you have a chance to meet him some day.

Believe it or not, the day got even crazier. Brett told me that one of the Gift of the Cup winners from last year’s series was also coincidentally in Nashville. His name is Chance (can’t make this stuff up), and he happens to be another die-hard Pens fan. Somehow, Chance was able to scalp a ticket to the game moments before the doors opened. The three of us took part in the pre-game festivities around the arena, met countless amazing Preds and Pens fans and finally entered the arena for what would be a once in a lifetime game.

Brett, Chance, and Sandeep
Brett, Chance, and Sandeep again

Eventually we made it out to a popular Pittsburgh bar in town called Piranha’s. We met up with even more Pens fans there and took a lot of ridiculous pictures with the entire bar. After a few more rounds at the bar and crazy photos, we said our farewells. I always knew that hockey fans were a special breed, but my experience from last year further elevated my appreciation for the Pittsburgh Penguins and ice hockey. So excited and proud to be a part of the Gift of The Cup family, and I’m looking forward to sharing my story with countless hockey fans in the future.