Dunlap: A Stanley Cup Story

You know Sid.

You know Geno.

You know Flower and Murray and Sully and Horny.

You know who Ian Cole and Trevor Daley and Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel are.

Heck, maybe you have a sweater with one of their last names plastered across the back or a t-shirt with their faces on the front.

And rightly so.

My, what a run those guys — and a band of others — took us on over the past couple seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, securing back-to-back Stanley Cups and forcing a sense of civic pride in these parts that seemingly only a successful sports team can.

They all played a part; they all pulled a measure of that rope and will forever be hockey heroes in western Pennsylvania.

Know who else is? A man who works for the Penguins named Danny Kroll. At least to me he is.

He’s an equipment man for the Penguins and he made a Stanley Cup dream come true. Right, smack dab at my front door and then in through my living room.

Danny Kroll is the kind of Pittsburgher who should make us all proud; the kind of person the Penguins should be honored to employ.

On Saturday when he had the Stanley Cup for about 12 hours or so, Kroll stopped by my house to see the biggest Penguins fan I know — my daughter, Darran.

She’s 6.

She has leukemia, a horrific cancer that has zapped her of so many things in life.

darrandunlapcup3 Dunlap: A Stanley Cup Story

Photo Credit: Colin Dunlap

She hasn’t had much interaction with anyone who isn’t a doctor or a nurse since November when she was diagnosed.

She’s pretty much confined to our home and Children’s Hospital visits.

She missed just about all of kindergarten, only has a few strands of hair left, has a ballooned-up face from the regimen of steroids she is on and — as with any cancer patient — goes through those ups and downs.

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Photo Credit: Colin Dunlap

The doctors think they have a firm foothold on her cancer and have charted a treatment course through Mar., 2019 but the truth is, you just never know with stuff like this.

All the while, through it all, Darran has never lost her unyielding love for Pittsburgh sports.

So imagine what must have been going through her mind — and that of her twin brother, Declan — when Kroll walked up on our front porch on Saturday at about 1:30 p.m. carrying the Stanley Cup.

He could have been anywhere, could have been swimming with his buddies with it or pouring Miller Lites into the thing and cranking them back with some college pals. Instead, the newly-married Kroll (who is 33) decided his first stop with the Cup was going to see a little girl with cancer.

Again, you know the greatness of Sid and Geno and guys like that — what Kroll did was understand he could also make a difference through his position in hockey and jumped at the opportunity.

As my daughter — who regularly gets a one-inch needle plunged into the port just under the skin in her chest — went to pick up and Cup in our living room, she quickly realized (even with the help of her brother) that it was too heavy.

“You’ll be that strong someday,” Kroll said to her. “You’ll be able to pick it up.”

darrandunlapcup1 Dunlap: A Stanley Cup Story

Photo Credit: Colin Dunlap

It was perfect. The perfect words for the perfect moment in a time that brought happiness to someone who has experienced so much hurt the past seven months.
In the coming months, you will see and hear all about these Cup stories and how its travels and travails will take it all around the world with people who have earned the right to have it for a day.

On Saturday, Danny Kroll brought the Cup into my living room and changed the spirits of someone who needs more than ever something like that to cling to right now.

darrandunlapcup4 Dunlap: A Stanley Cup Story

Photo Credit: Colin Dunlap

So we all have our hockey heroes — guys who put the puck in the net, block a humming slapshot or toss that incredibly deft pass to a teammate roaring down the wing.

When you think of those Pittsburgh hockey heroes, when you think of the class the Penguins organization exudes, think also of a guy like Danny Kroll.

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