THUNDER BAY -- Apparently there aren’t many Pittsburgh Penguins flags floating around Thunder Bay.
Luckily 15-year-old Zach Prenger is a huge fan of the Stanley Cup champions and his aunt happens to be a city employee.
When city officials were unable to locate a Penguins flag for goaltender Matt Murray to hoist over the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, the city put out an internal call for help.
The St. Ignatius High School student was only too happy to help out.
“It’s awesome,” said the teenager, a budding goaltender himself, who got the call for help while at a hockey camp in Brampton, Ont.
“I’ve been a Pittsburgh Penguins fan all my life and it’s pretty cool.”
Murray joined Mayor Keith Hobbs and the hall of fame’s Diane Imrie on Monday morning at a ceremony that attracted about 75 people to the South May Street beacon of all things Northwestern Ontario sports.
Prenger wasn’t the only diehard Penguins fan on hand for the flag-raising, a tradition started by Hobbs in 2011 when his beloved Boston Bruins won the Cup.
Since then they’ve raise the flag twice for Patrick Sharp and the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as for a pair of Canada Games athletes.
Nina Morrow and her son Jonathan were at Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final in San Jose, after winning an all-expense-paid trip in a contest.
On Monday she got the jersey she wore autographed by Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to the championship in net, winning a rookie record-tying 15 games.
“Just seeing him today and the flag waving here at city hall is incredible. It’s a feat that not too many hockey players accomplish, and for him in his first season as an NHL goalie just put us on the map,” she said.
Imrie, her fingers crossed that one day the Toronto Maple Leafs flag will fly in Thunder Bay for coach Mike Babcock – born in Manitouwadge – said they love the continue the tradition.
“We just love to make this community feel proud and continue that on. With the Pittsburgh Penguins flag flying here, they’ll be able to drive by and say, ‘Great our local guy won the Stanley Cup.’”
For Murray, it’s the start of three days of festivities, which includes his day with the Stanley Cup, which starts on Tuesday at noon at Intercity Shopping Centre and a World Cup of Hockey Celebration at Marina Park at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It’s cool. I’m honoured to be invited to something like this,” said Murray, making his first trip to the hall of fame.
“As athletes and people who grew up in Thunder Bay, we’re proud to be from Thunder Bay. This is a cool moment, that’s for sure.”