As many of you have heard, three Pittsburgh police officers were killed while responding to a 911 call on Saturday April 4. Slain officers Stephen Mayhle, Paul Sciullo II and Eric Kelly were honored yesterday in a downtown Pittsburgh procession. The city wept for blocks as thousands of people lined its streets to pay respect to the fallen members of the "Fightin' 5th".
During any tragedy, ordinary citizens get a chance to do something great for their community. People get a chance to reach out and help, and many are swayed to do so that ordinarily wouldn't think to. Unfortunately yet fortunately, tragedies make individual people better—and communities great.
Sports teams are always a part of the community, but in what way? For Pittsburghers, the Steelers six Super Bowl rings, the Pirates five world championships, and the Penguins two Stanley Cups are a large sense of our "community" feeling. We cheer together, we cry together, and we celebrate together.
But, what really makes a professional sports team a part of the community? Is it the way that they can bring complete strangers together? Partly, yes. But, what about the way that they become a part of the city when they aren't on the ice, court or field?
To me, the Pittsburgh Penguins became a bigger part of my community with the way that they handled the tragic deaths of the officers. During last night's game against the New York Islanders, The Penguins raised over $100,000 for the Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund. Donations were taken from fans entering the game, but also from team members and faculty.
Additionally, players wore a special "Fightin' 5th" shirt under their jerseys during post-game ceremonies.
Traditionally, the Penguins celebrate "fan appreciation night" on the last home game of the season. During this game, fans are chosen from attendance to receive game worn jerseys from Penguin players. As each player handed their jersey to the lucky recipient, they revealed the special "Fightin' 5th" t-shirt that was designed to honor the fallen officers.
On this day in 2009, to this writer—the Pittsburgh Penguins became more than a team, they became a part of my community.
For those interested in donating to the Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund, details are visible at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Also, the t-shirts were made commercially available, but appear to have sold out. I was unable to find a link to any direct site where they would be made available again.