Tyler Kennedy, like all young hockey players, had the dream of making it to the National Hockey League and one day winning the Stanley Cup. He became one of the privileged to have accomplished both of those feats during his career.
For Kennedy, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the journey to the NHL began at his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Kennedy was an important player during his four seasons with the Greyhounds, where he captained the team in his final year of junior eligibility in 2005-06.
“It was an unbelievable experience playing junior hockey in my hometown,” Kennedy said. “You really grow up during those years and it was great to play the game you love at a young age and meet a lot of great people.”
His excellent play caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted Kennedy in the fourth round of the 2004 Draft.
After his OHL duties were fulfilled, the young forward reported to Penguins training camp, where he ran into a friend, former NHL player Rico Fata, who played for the Penguins from 2003-2006. “It was nice to know someone on the team who could give you the scoop on how everything goes,” Kennedy said. The 2006-07 season saw Kennedy play exclusively in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the AHL affiliate of the Penguins. He scored 12 goals and chipped in 25 assists for the Baby Penguins that season.
The following season, he played 10 games in Northeaster Pennsylvania but earned a shot at a regular NHL spot by suiting up for 55 games in Pittsburgh, scoring 19 points. That season, the Penguins fell to Nicklas Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. Kennedy, now an NHL regular, played in 67 games for the Penguins. That season was one of trials and tribulations as the team got off to a slow start and made a coaching change in mid-season.
“That season everyone played their part and tugged on the same rope after we had all of the changes we made,” Kennedy said.
The determination to get back to glory saw the Penguins turn around and eventually get back to the Finals where they met the Red Wings in part two of the rivalry. The Penguins would not let the same opportunity go by the wayside.
The Penguins finished off the series in Detroit with a last-second Marc-Andre Fleury save to capture the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
“It was a magical season for sure,” Kennedy said. “It is something that I’ll never forget. What makes it special is when I put on those skates and think back to those that said I was too small or too slow to make it to the NHL. It’s something I’m so proud of.”
Kennedy went on to play another seven seasons in the NHL with Pittsburgh, San Jose, New York Islanders and New Jersey before hanging up the skates after the 2015-16 season.
However, he has an unbreakable bond with Pittsburgh, where he met his wife and where he has settled down. “I knew we’d settled down in Pittsburgh,” Kennedy said. “It’s an unbelievable city. It fits both of us really well.”
He is no stranger to the city of Johnstown. He spent time in the city during the Slap Shot Cup earlier this season. “Johnstown has a small-town feel which is special for me and it’s a great city,” Kennedy said.