‘Ottawa’ Sens a Mystery to Early Bird Pens Fans: ‘When it’s the Playoffs, all Bets are Off’

Sam Witucki and Caitlynn Cook were the first fans to arrive at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, setting up two folding canvas chairs and a table, opening a deck of cards and a box of donuts, and getting down to the serious business of waiting for the evening’s first game of the NHL Eastern Conference finals between the Penguins and Ottawa Senators, a scant nine hours away.

When the opening faceoff takes place shortly after 7 p.m., though, neither expects to be inside the arena, each content to watch it with thousands of other fans on the large screens set up outside.

“We’ve been fans all our lives,” said Cook, 22, whose fandom of hockey extends back to the days of Mario Lemieux’s return to Pittsburgh in 2000.

“I love the excitement. It’s the athleticism of all the sports put together, on ice.”

Both are hopeful of a Pittsburgh win, but confess they haven’t scouted the Sens well enough to make any kind of grand pronouncement.

“I don’t know a lot about Ottawa,” said Witucki.

“They’re in a different division and a different country, and they’ve been kind of quiet in the past few years. But when it’s the playoffs, all bets are off.”

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