The story behind the Penguins fan with Mike Lange tattoos on his leg
The right leg of Alex Sloan has helped him take steps to sobriety.
It’s covered in sayings familiar to any Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
“Elvis Has Just Left The Building.”
“Scratch My Back With A Hacksaw.”
The sayings of Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange are more than words on flesh for Sloan, 24, of Kenosha, Wis. They inspired him when he was going through a rough time at a Florida rehabilitation center for opioid addiction.
The team honored Lange on Tuesday with a bobblehead. Sloan tweeted at the Penguins with a photo of his leg. The team noticed.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 8, 2019
“There is no one close to Mike Lange announcing hockey,” Sloan said.
When told about Sloan and his tattoos, Lange knew how to respond: “That makes me smile like a butcher’s dog.”
He said Sloan’s dedication warmed his heart.
”I have known people battling addiction and know how hard it is to overcome addiction, so if I can be a small part of someone’s recovery like this young man, then I would want many more people to get those tattoos,” Lange said Wednesday.
Sloan originally got a Penguins’ logo tattooed on his right leg when he was 18. He added the sayings two years ago. Talulah Tattoo in Kenosha did the art work.
“I think tattoo artists aren’t shocked at anything,” said Sloan of his requests for the tattoos.
Sloan said he doesn’t have a favorite saying. He said he likes them all.
Sloan’s love for Pittsburgh sports, namely the Penguins, came from dad, Walt, who grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side and lived in Avalon before coming to Wisconsin.
“My dad is a huge Pittsburgh sports fan, and I have been around Pittsburgh sports my entire life,” Sloan said. “We couldn’t get many games on television when I was young, but we can watch a lot of games now.”
Sloan said when he couldn’t watch games, he would check the paper for scores and statistics. Hockey helped him, Sloan said.
He said his life took a downturn in high school with excessive drug use and “turned into a disaster.”
His girlfriend at the time told him she was pregnant.
“I was lying in bed and thought ‘I really don’t want to die,’” he said. “So I went to a high school teacher’s house and told her I had a drug problem, and she agreed and called my parents who got me help.”
He went to a rehab center in Florida for 45 days, including his 19th birthday.
He said he was in withdrawal. The only real sports channel they got in rehab was NBC Sports. He caught the Penguins games whenever he could.
“I am not a religious guy, and when you feel your world collapsing, you need an outlet, something to look forward to every day, so I turned to sports, to Penguin hockey,” he said. “If I couldn’t watch them, I would listen to them. Nothing made me happier than to do that. And Mike Lange on the radio paints the perfect picture when he calls a game.”
Soon after he returned from rehab his son – Oliver Crosby— was born. Sloan will be six years sober in December.
His brother, Ryan Katers, said Lange saved his brother’s life and that his brother’s love for the Penguins is unwavering
“Knowing that Mr. Lange knew how much he means to him would mean everything to Alex,” Katers said in an email. “Mr. Lange got Alex through the darkness.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .