In the hockey world, Martin Sonnenberg has been all over the map.
He's played for NHL teams in Pittsburgh and Calgary, went to play in Finland, Switzerland and Sweden, and shot pucks for minor league teams from San Antonio to St. John.
But no matter where he went, Sonnenberg was never jolted by the kind of electricity he felt while playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Those fans have been the best, Sonnenberg said, versus anywhere in the world.
He'll get to experience that excitement one more time, when the former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winger suits up with a group of Penguins alumni to square off against the Pennsylvania State Police Ice Hockey team in a 6:30 p.m. charity game Friday at the Ice Rink a Coal Street.
It's definitely going to be exciting, said Sonnenberg, a native of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, who will turn 35 next Wednesday. I'm just going out there to have some fun and hopefully not get beat up too bad by the state troopers.
Sonnenberg, currently working in his family's heavy excavation business, was a real trooper himself through the initial seasons of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hockey.
The hot-shooting winger scored the team's inaugural goal and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's first-ever game-winner during the team's debut season of 1999-2000.
The answer to a trivia question, Sonnenberg laughed.
And although the team's first few seasons proved a struggle for success, Sonnenberg found some individual stardom by scoring 54 goals and putting up 135 points through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's first three seasons through 2001-02.
It was probably the start of my career as a professional, said Sonnenberg, who played a few seasons in the lower minor leagues and spent 1998-99 with a joint AHL team in Syracuse. It was probably the place where I had my best memories. I enjoyed the people.
Although the first few Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hockey teams didn't win much, Sonnenberg sensed that hockey was winning over sports fans in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I think anybody who was involved with the team really got that sense, said Sonnenberg, who recently welcomed his fourth child into the world and is now retired but still playing club hockey with his brothers in Canada. Right from (the 1999) training camp, the fans were hoping for something like that. I was thinking hockey was a great fit for the area.
I'm excited to come back and see where it's gone.
He'll be bringing a lot of old memories and ex-WBS Penguins with him.
From guys such as Dennis Bonvie and Chris Kelleher out of the team's early days to more recent players, including Dave Gove from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's 2008-09 Eastern Conference finalist team and Jesse Boulerice – who played for the Penguins as recently as 2010-11, the alumni team will put plenty of big weapons on the ice against the State Police.
Then, the Penguins alumni team will head to HersheyPark Stadium to play an outdoor game against a group of former Hershey Bears who helped build the bad blood between the two teams over the years.
But the years have eroded some of that old animosity, so don't expect fists to start flying.
I think I've softened up over the years, Sonnenberg said. Especially my hands. I don't think we'll be doing too much fighting. But I've seen stranger things happen.
It'll be a great atmosphere.