The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t forget their Stanley Cup winners. They certainly don’t forget those who walk together forever, especially important people like former Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist.
Hornqvist was one of the spark plugs as the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Hornqvist provided the iconic late goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final against Nashville, which was the game winner, and the empty net clincher against San Jose in ’16.
Though the Penguins traded Hornqvist for Mike Matheson in the fall of 2020, COVID restrictions kept the Penguins and Hornqvist apart last season. The old friends renewed their acquaintances in the season’s second game at Florida Live, but Thursday night was Hornqvist’s first game in Pittsburgh since the trade.
Hornqvist admitted on Thursday afternoon, “There will be a lot of emotion,” for his comeback game.
As is custom, the Penguins honored their Stanley Cup winning comrade:
You may not remember, but Hornqvist was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins turnaround. Not only was he the first Penguins trade acquisition for new GM Jim Rutherford in 2014, and not only did he score the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but the fulcom was Dec. 31, 2015.
For those new to PHN or who don’t remember, that game was in Detroit. The Penguins did not have a comeback win in over 12 months. When they got behind, it was OVER.
A few weeks earlier, the Penguins sacked head coach Mike Johnston for Mike Sullivan. Rutherford also acquired Trevor Daley. But it was Hornqvist who stirred the pot on New Year’s Eve, 2015.
The Penguins rallied from a two-goal deficit against Detroit in the old Joe Louis Arena. Not only did they win, but it incinerated a few mental barriers.
This writer was only one of two Pittsburgh writers on that road trip and in the locker room that night. And so you won’t hear the story anywhere else.
As we filed into the boisterous locker room, Daley and Sidney Crosby were in full belly laugh, back-slapping getting ready for the team party.
It was Hornqvist with a deep purple black eye who held court. In the tiny Joe Louis visitor’s locker room, Hornqvist stood front and center to chat with me and Josh Yohe. Hornqvist was still full of energy and intensity. If he had to go back out and play, he could have.
The feeling that night was inescapable (and it made me look smart when I wrote the next day that it had a “Silver” feeling. I got that one right, eh?)
But Hornqvist was losing his place in the Penguins top-nine and maybe his spot on the Penguins top power play. His $5.3 million AAV carried as much risk as reward.
The player we affectionately termed the “Crazy Viking” is playing on Florida’s fourth line but has been a catalyst in the cultural turnaround of the league best, 10-2-1 Florida Panthers.