I made the 2,500 mile journey to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a signing with hockey icon, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr is second all-time in points, trailing only "the Great One" Wayne Gretzky. There's also a good chance that Jagr will surpass the late Gordie Howe for second most goals by the time he retires. If he retires.
Most people will think I'm crazy for traveling so far to meet just one hockey player. They're probably right, but the airfare was cheap and it was a chance to check out a new city. The city itself did not disappoint. I didn't have low expectations, but I had never thought of Pittsburgh as being an exceptionally nice city. Of course my first stop was downtown and PNC Park.
My only complaint about the entire trip is that the signing didn't happen three weeks later, when the Pirates would be in town. PNC Park should be on every baseball fan's "bucket list" and it looked awfully beautiful even from the outside. I'll add it to the list of ballpark's that I have visited (which is up to seventeen) for now, but I'd really like to attend a game there in the near future.
The signing itself went very smoothly with zero issues. I was about three hundredth in line and yet it took less than two hours to get through. Everybody in line got to talk to Jagr and get a photograph with him. Props to Total Sports Enterprise, who hosted the event. I really wish more signings were this well-run.
All four items came out great and Jagr was very friendly. I was a bit concerned that he might have a problem doing so many inscriptions on the jersey, but there were zero issues. Also, for a man born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Jagr has surprisingly nice hand writing.
There was only one things left to do: watch Jagr in action. I attended the Florida Panthers - Pittsburgh Penguins game the next morning at the newly-named PPG Paints Arena (what a horrible name for an arena, by the way). The arena is one of the newest in the NHL and lived up to expectations. The Panthers got outplayed by the defending Stanley Cup Champs, and Sidney Crosby scored a natural hat-trick. It was cool seeing the best player in the game accomplish a rare feat in a season in which he should win MVP.
I left the game a few minutes early to stop at Primanti Bros. on the way to the airport. They invented quite possibly the greatest sandwich on the face of the planet: meat, french fries, coleslaw, and onions on Italian bread. I went with no coleslaw and it was easily a 10 out of 10.
A proper way to end a very enjoyable and memorable trip.