By Sam Kasan
The Penguins may be looked up to by young children everywhere, but even the toughest hockey players in the world know that the real heroes are those who fight for their country overseas, putting their life and wellbeing on the line so that we can live in freedom from tyranny.
Pat McIlvain is one such hero.
McIlvain is confined to a wheelchair and cannot see after he was struck in the face with a bullet during a firefight in Afghanistan while serving in the military. But his true love in life is hockey, and any time he gets to a game he still enjoys the sounds of the game.
The Penguins invited McIlvain to attend the team’s Tuesday morning skate with some friends and family. He watched the practice and was greeted by head coach Dan Bylsma, captain Sidney Crosby and others as they made their way onto the ice.
Following practice, McIlvain was brought into the locker room where several Pens staff and players greeted him – including hockey legend/owner Mario Lemieux. In addition to meeting Lemieux, Bylsma and Crosby, McIlvain also spent some time with Craig Adams, Marc-Andre Fleury, general manager Ray Shero and player development coach Bill Guerin.
McIlvain will attend the Penguins’ evening contest against the Washington Capitals.
This is McIlvain’s third visit to the Penguins’ facility for such a meeting. He speaks very little, but his family and therapist say that he becomes much more talkative and in higher spirits after visiting with the team.
McIlvain, who played club hockey at California University of Pennsylvania before joining the army, lives at a special therapy center in North Carolina. He has a special sled to go on the ice and he can occasionally pass pucks with his friends.