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Penguins Perspectives: A bond that lasts forever

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Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Monday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - This Monday wasn't short of topics to talk about, especially not when it came to the Penguins.

However, this week, I'm taking the focus off of the Penguins specifically and using this column to talk about something more abstract, the power of sports.

As many of you know, last week a 19-year-old was shot and killed at a birthday party in Monroeville.

This shooting touched my life.

It was the nephew of a teammate I played hockey with for about a decade.

Now, I know a lot of people are getting this far in the column and starting to cringe. I'm not going to use this space to spout off my opinions on gun control and all of that – plus, most people reading this are very aware of where I stand – but to talk about what sports mean to the world.

I was lucky enough in my competitive hockey-playing days to be a part of the Allegheny Badgers. For 12 years, I was introduced to some of the most high-quality human beings anyone could meet. The kind of people that when your father dies, as mine did when I was 18, will be there for you at a moment's notice.

For the shooting that took the life of Aceyn Ausbrook, it was a moment when all of our phones went off – "Hey, this was T's nephew, get to Pittsburgh."

On a Wednesday night as I sat with his family and our former teammates, recalling memories from our playing days, I was reminded: there are few things on this planet that create a bond like sports.

That night, it didn't matter where we were in the United States, we knew where we had to be.

For "T" and the rest of us, we had played hockey together from the time we were six years old until we graduated high school. We experienced everything there was to experience as kids and teenagers and through college.

As we all grew up together playing hockey, with my father, may he rest in peace, as our coach always said, "If you found yourself in a dark alley, these are the people you'd want with you."

Well, right now we find ourselves in that metaphorical dark alley.

Because of hockey, because of sports, we came together.

It was a night that should've been somber, should've been full of tears, but you know what – those tears weren't shed in sadness.

They came from laughter.

As I sat there, looking around at people who were going through the darkest of dark times in their lives, there were smiles. Laughter. Tears of joy.

No, we didn't solve the world's problems, no we didn't fix dire things, and no, it isn't the end-all, be-all.

But for a night, when a family needed it most, sports were there.

Also, the Penguins lost in overtime and we all certainly complained about it.

Right before the next person said, "Hey, remember when…"

Then all was right in the world again for a brief moment. 

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