A neon sign hangs above colorful portraits of Pittsburgh Penguins stars Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin in a back bedroom of Lori Bertman’s house. Spelling out the phrase “Hockey is for everyone” in bright pink script, the art piece is a summation of the vibrant, purpose-driven and slightly unconventional way in which Bertman conducts her life as a hockey superfan.
Glancing around her memorabilia-filled hockey she-shed (aka her son’s old bedroom), it’s hard to imagine that just six years ago, Bertman didn’t even know what a Zamboni was. Not that that’s surprising. Living in a state notably devoid of snow, and in a city lacking even one dedicated ice-skating rink, hockey isn’t an obvious choice, especially for the daughter of a legendary LSU baseball coach. However, while recovering from injuries sustained from a serious car accident, Bertman found a new interest in hockey thanks to a colleague and avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan who urged her to check it out.
“I have one colleague from Pittsburgh, and he would check in on me and talk to me about the Penguins since he is a huge fan,” Bertman explains. “I was amazed when I turned it on for myself. It was like nothing I had ever seen.”
Following the season and traveling to a Stanley Cup game in 2016, Bertman said she found herself becoming obsessed in a way that she had observed many times in the past but never thought she would fully understand.
“I would see people so excited to meet my dad or get his autograph. I never understood that completely,” recalls Bertman. “But all of the sudden, I was that fan. And I knew the type of fan I wanted to be is a collector, a historian.”
Now, the bold black walls of the room she transformed with the help of friend Heather Sewell Day are covered in autographs, art, pucks and even more out-of-the-box collectibles like a net from the 2009 Stanley Cup draped over the window, a 1991 box of Wheaties commemorating the Penguins’ Stanley Cup win, and even a pair of Sidney Crosby’s shorts.
But among all of the retro finds, pop art pieces and high-profile signatures, Bertman says the truly important items are the ones that speak to hockey’s efforts toward inclusion.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to be a part of the hockey community,” Bertman says, rifling through an extensive collection of jerseys and pucks from games raising awareness for everything from cancer to LGBTQ+ to Black history. “My friend said, ‘Why do you have to go and change the sport, Lori? Why can’t you just watch it like everyone else? But this is just who I am.”
One of this year’s Women with a Cause honorees, Bertman is adding hockey to her list of causes as she works with institutions like the Hockey Hall of Fame, where she serves on the fund development committee, to redefine what it means to be a hockey fan.
“I know people are like, ‘Who is this girl?’ I’m Southern. I’m female,” Bertman says. “But I want to try to build something here. It’s not just about one night saying cancer or Black history is a priority. It’s about creating progressive programs that transform the culture.”
Scroll over the photos below for more insight into Bertman’s collection.