Patric Hornqvist, from Sollentuna, Sweden, is figuratively a viking. A 30 year old, crazy viking. The Pittsburgh Penguins winger is the blood and guts scrappy net-front player who won the biggest loose puck of the season and scored the Stanley Cup winning goal, is an integral part of the Penguins beating heart.
Every great team has a character who is a bit crazy. Those players bring color, life and Hornqvist also brings to the Penguins a giant heart.
Hornqvist missed a few games in the Eastern Conference Final with a broken hand. The hand was still broken when he crashed the net in pursuit of Justin Schultz’ shot and chipped the bouncing puck off Pekka Rinne’s elbow in the closing minutes of Game 6.
The hand was also broken when he hoisted the Stanley Cup minutes later. You have to be a little crazy to play that special brand of hockey with a broken hand, right?
All season, players have laughed and smiled when referring to Hornqvist. He enjoys those physical battles in front of the net, which is the prime “battle area”. The pushing and shoving, punching, and cross checking as part of the war for the precious ice in front of the goalie, brings a smile to his face.
During the on-ice celebration, Ian Cole shook his head and laughed as he talked about Hornqvist to 93-7 the Fan’s on-ice reporters and Swedish Television:
“His motor is going all the time. Enough can’t be said for how he plays. How he practices. He is the craziest son of a gun I have every played with… He is crazy, but in the best way possible. He is so intense, all the time,” — Ian Cole
After scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal, the emotions poured out of Hornqvist.
— Barn Hockey Apparel™ (@BarnHockey) June 12, 2017
Conor Sheary laughed as he recounted the moments following the goal to 93-7 the Fan, “He didn’t want to go back out after he scored because his emotions were so high, even though the coaches were calling his name.” Sheary continued, “That just shows his character and his resolve. He’s a huge part of this team.”
James Neal–Cultural Change
Hornqvist is indeed a huge part of the team. And, more importantly, a huge part of the cultural change.
In June 2014, Hornqvist was the first player acquired by new GM Jim Rutherford. Rutherford dealt sniping winger and caustic teammate James Neal for Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. While Neal was popular in the locker room and among fans, Neal was also part of the problem for the then underachieving Penguins. Neal’s occasionally poor attitude and undisciplined penalties contributed to the Penguins infamous meltdowns, when challenged.
In seven full NHL seasons, not counting his rookie year split with the AHL nor the strike shortened 2012-13 seasons, Hornqvist has seven 20-goal seasons.
The gritty winger was a lowly 7th Round draft choice of the Nashville Predators in 2005. After three seasons in the Swedish Elite League (Djugardens IF Stockholm), he made the move to North America and immediately made the Nashville Predators. In his first full season, 2009-10, he scored 30 goals. Then, like now, most of his goals were scored within a few feet of the net.
Hornqvist is the type of player the Penguins ignored for years in favor of chasing talented shooters, but they desperately needed; physical, intense, a nose for the net and high character. Few players have the stature or chutzpah to argue with Sidney Crosby on the bench. Hornqvist does.
For much of the last three years, Hornqvist has skated on Crosby’s right wing. Three straight 20 goal seasons (25, 22, 21) with the Penguins and countless on-ice battles won, has made Hornqvist a core player. Even as younger, more talented players like Jake Guentzel figure to assume a higher profile in the Penguins lineup, Hornqvist will remain one of the pillars in the locker room and lineup.
Heart. Miles and Miles of Heart
The 2017 Penguins are the first team to win a Stanley Cup without a top tier defenseman since the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes (also staffed by Rutherford). The Penguins embattled, decimated roster which defeated the NHL’s best teams had more heart than talent.
Heart and soul players like Hornqvist are essential. Hornqvist came through in the biggest way, a Stanley Cup winning goal which will echo through team lore.
Every team needs a crazy viking. The Penguins have Hornqvist and they love him.
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Mike Neccia wrote the Penguins have achieved Patriots level of success and hatred–Brace Yourself! Sponsored by Chetlin / Pechersky Orthodontics.
Dan Kingerski wrote– The Stanley Cup: Hugs-Tears-Goodbyes.