It was December 13, 2015, in downtown Pittsburgh.
The scuffling Penguins had a Sunday night off. One day earlier, general manager Jim Rutherford made the decision to fire coach Mike Johnston and replace him with Mike Sullivan. Struggling stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang met Marc-Andre Fleury and David Perron for dinner that night at Butcher and the Rye in the city’s Cultural District.
Sullivan, who had driven to Pittsburgh from Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and orchestrated his first practice as Penguins head coach a few hours earlier on Sunday, was looking for somewhere to eat dinner in his new city.
He chose Butcher and the Rye.
It seems Sullivan has a way of showing up right when the Penguins need him.
“It’s funny,” Letang said. “That night, we ended up talking for about two hours with him after he ran into us in the restaurant. He just wanted to talk about hockey, and to get to know us. Kind of crazy that the first conversation we had with him was there.”
After he was hired, Sullivan said his first order of business was to speak with his stars privately, to figure out what makes them tick, to know them as people first and hockey players second.