To many people in the Philadelphia area’s dismay, I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I have been since I started faithfully watching hockey in 2013. Yes, like any other Pens fan, I love Sidney Crosby. But a specific player caught my eye a few seasons ago.
Brandon Tanev was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2019–2020 season, when he was a free agent. Since he joined the team, he has made an impact both on and off the ice. Even now, with the newly formed team, the Seattle Kraken, Tanev’s personality is what makes him the likeable instigator that he is.
Tanev’s 2020–2021 season headshot became a meme amongst the hockey community, thus sparking league-wide likeability of his goofy personality off the ice. In the headshot, his eyes are wide open, as if he had just seen a ghost. In fact, this is what Tanev claimed when asked about the unique photo.
When traded to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, Tanev recreated this iconic headshot, just in a different team’s jersey. Former Penguins teammate, Kasperi Kapanen, even attempted to recreate Tanev’s photo during the Penguins’ 2021–2022 season media day.
Tanev and Kapanen’s relationship is also what makes Tanev’s personality shine. Their brotherly love still lives on, even on separate teams. Tanev recently underwent ACL surgery, and the Kraken tweeted that they were accepting get well cards mailed to their facility, with attention to Brandon Tanev. Of course, Kapanen sent a card.
Tanev also created tee shirt slogans and gained retweets with his expletive phrases at another player during a contest against the Boston Bruins. After placing a heavy hit on Jarred Tinordi (eventually getting ejected for it), Tanev received some backlash from an undisclosed Bruin. He shouted, along with other things, “You think you’re a ******* sheriff?” Stickers were made, tee shirts were printed, and the city of Pittsburgh and the hockey community were cracking up at the comedic chirps.
Brandon Tanev’s comedic personality has stuck with the hockey community during these past few seasons in the league. Literally—he has made his mark on tee shirts, posters, mugs and stickers by independent artists. Tanev’s radiant persona makes him one of my favorite players in the NHL.
Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Brandon Tanev posing for this iconic headshot.