When the drive to the NHL's Stanley Cup began for the Pittsburgh Penguins last April, Bryan Rust (FIN '14) was a little-known rookie forward.
After scoring the only two goals in Game 7 to clinch the Eastern Conference Finals, the former Irishman seemed indispensable. So much so that when he took a hit to the head late in the first game of the championship round, Penguin fans everywhere let out a collective groan. They worried both about his well-being and that their hopes of hoisting the Cup were now diminished. Not bad for a guy still a little wide-eyed about playing on the same team as legends Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
When Rust was a kid playing tournament hockey, all the coaches called him a natural, but not the hardest working player.
One day, his coach took him aside, telling him if he didn't work at it, it didn't matter if he had all the talent in the world. It was the nudge Rust needed. After that, he played as much as he could, worked on the smallest details, asked players he admired for pointers, studied his idols. And it paid off.
He's not quite used to people in Pittsburgh coming up to him on the street to shake his hand. And he'd happily waltz that 35-pound Stanley Cup around the rink a few more times in his career. His advice for young athletes: Dream big and keep working. You never know what can happen.