Even if his fu manchu has thinned out a bit and he's dropped a pound or two (or 50), Cy Clark is a difficult man to miss.
Chances are you don't know Clark by his real name. But if you've attended a Penguins game in the past few seasons, you probably know him by a couple of other monikers such as "Hulk Hogan Guy" or "Malkamania."
In the past several seasons, Clark, a 50-year-old native of Verona, has become a staple at Penguins games for dressing up like Hulk Hogan while taunting opposing teams with customized jerseys and posterboard signs. Clark has had a regular presence on the video boards at the Mellon Arena and Consol Energy Center.
But even when you're pretending to be someone else, real life finds a way to interrupt things.
Clark was diagnosed with throat cancer in the spring. Following a barrage of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Clark, a former smoker, ("If you know someone who smokes, tell them to come see me."), is cancer free but is still undergoing the healing process. He hopes to begin a support group for head and neck cancer survivors.
The Penguins got word of Clark's illness and invited him to attend practice last Tuesday. Clark got a front-row seat for practice, a few sticks from players and pretty good tour of the team's facilities.
Despite his illness, Clark plans on attending at least 20 homes games this year and has also organized road trips this season for Penguins games in Buffalo, Philadelphia and New York. He also will begin writing for From The Point. He can be found on Twitter @MalkaMania71
Thursday, Clark, who attended the Penguins' first game in 1967, talked about his Hulk Hogan persona, his signs and jerseys as well as his recovery:Why Hulk Hogan?
"I don’t know. One day, we had a contest at work for Halloween. The way I was growing my moustache, I was looking in the mirror and was like “That looks a little like Hulk Hogan.’ And considering the fact that I don’t have hair on the top of my head, I said I’ll do NWO Hogan. Did the whole shebang. Dyed the moustache. Went in that day dressed with the NWO shirt. The one manager walked up and busted out laughing and said “This is over. You won.” He didn’t even see anybody else. From that point out, I figured what the hell. I just said if Hulk Hogan can walk around 24 hour with a bandanna why can’t I?"
Where do you get all your customized jerseys?
"I go to House of Hockey in Monroeville and they run a deal for me. A lot of the (jerseys) I had when I was younger and I saved them all. It all basically started when I did a t-shirt for the (2009 Stanley Cup final) for (former Penguins forward Marian) Hossa and I had “Judas” on the front. I figured I have all these jerseys so why not do them on there?"
How much do you spend on them?
"I don’t want to say. My wife will kill me!"
And the signs?
"Just off the top of my head. If something happens, I write it down. Basically, just what I think of. That night or the week before."
Ever have any issues with your jerseys or signs?
"At the Winter Classic, they would not let me in. Thanks to fellow Penguins fan Pat McManus who was parked in the lot, he saved a lot of my signs. He put them in his car. I’ve got into (Philadelphia) and (Long Island). The only place that gave me a hard time was Columbus when I had 'Rick Trash' instead of Rick Nash. But I’ll get him at home this year. And don’t worry, I’ve got one for (Jeff) Carter too but I’m not telling you."
Former Flyers captain Mike Richards once called you out on Twitter. Ever have any other issues with opposing players?
"(Canadiens defenseman) P.K. Subban. Flipped me off. I flipped him back. (Flyers forward Scott) Hartnell of course. At the glass jawing with me. (Blackhawks forward Daniel) Carcillo, wait until Chicago comes because I’m right behind the bench. I’d like to flip him out so bad he climbs over and comes at me. By then, I’ll be feeling pretty good to kick his (butt)."
One of the more famous jerseys you have is the Rick DiPietro Islanders jersey with "Fragile" on the back. You got Brent Johnson to pose with it?
"That was the best. The best. Oh man. I came up in line and I saw the look in his face. He was laughing. He looked at me and said ‘You got it?’ I went in the bag, pulled it out and said ‘Damn right. How about a picture?’ That picture took off."
The Penguins host the Flyers Dec. 29. Do you have anything planned for Maxime Talbot and Jaromir Jagr?
"Max Talbot is going to wish he never signed a contact with them. I'm gunning for him. Come to the game and you'll find out."
What was going to practice last Tuesday like?
"A dream. That’s all I can tell you. It blew me away. … Brought tears to my eyes. I came down and talked to (Penguins vice president of operations) Tom McMillan and he said to me (Dan Bylsma) wanted me to come out to watch practice. After that was over, he said, “You’re not done yet. Part two. I’m like, ‘Where am I going?’ And they took me into the locker room. That was pretty cool."
Who did you get to hang with?
"Matt Cooke, Sid, Johnson and Fleury were cool. They were funnier than hell. Deryk Engelland, (Arron) Asham, Chris Kunitz, (Tyler Kennedy)."
Evgeni Malkin too?
"That was cool. He said to me, 'Hey Hulk. Hi. Get well.' It was funny. It was cool."
When did you find out you had cancer?
"I was being doctored for two months for what I thought were sinus infections. I wasn’t getting any better. I go down to games and have no voice. Ironically after Game 7 (of the Penguins-Lightning series) I began to spit blood. I knew right then and there something was wrong and I was in trouble. I went in for a biopsy and that’s when they diagnosed me with stage two cancer."
You've undergone radiation and chemotherapy. Do you still have issues?
"Right now, it still burns when I eat most foods. Hopefully it’s going to get better. They say it’s going to get better. I got too skinny."
Quite a few Penguins fans have contacted you?
I"t’s hard to describe. I told people, I’m just a fan just like them. Just an ordinary person. This outpouring of love and affection… it’s just overwhelmed me. The last couple of days, I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sat and cried like a baby about how so many caring people… to be able to reach out and thank them. I’ve tried with messages and all that. It’s unreal. … I don’t know what to say. I really don’t."
You're going to Tuesday's home opener. What will that be like?
"Probably going to be bawling my eyes out. I better drink up on my water. It’s going to be emotional."
You've been a Penguins fans since the team was formed. What's it like seeing where this team is today?
"Driving up here today, seeing kids at the bus stop in Penguins jerseys, I think back to when I was a child and getting ready for opening day, being the only kid wearing a Penguins’ jersey to school. Dreaming one day people in this town would see this sport and how special this team and my dream has become a reality."
(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images: Others-Cy Clark)