CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has used several impressive signings to help win the Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.
However, none have been more meaningful than the five he acquired Tuesday. For the second consecutive year, Rutherford and the Penguins signed five young hockey fans from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to special one-day contracts.
Joseph Doerfler, Logan Evans, Raymond Steed, Colton Crabtree and Jason Gay each had breakfast with Penguins players in the locker room at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and signed their contracts following a press conference held by Rutherford. Each was given a personalized Penguins jersey to wear while watching practice Tuesday and will attend the Penguins game against the Vancouver Canucks at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SNP, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).
"It's good to have a group of guys here coming to help give the Penguins get a little more consistency," Rutherford said. "You think you guys can do that? Are you going to help out today? It's my honor to welcome you guys and I really hope this is a fun day for each of you."
Joseph, 19, was told he'd have a chance to meet the Penguins on Nov. 1. He didn't hesitate to answer the invitation by responding, "Yeah, let's do it."
"It's not every day you get to come and skate with the Penguins, and get to hang out and do everyday stuff with them," he said. "It's just amazing because, obviously, they're hard at work going on the road and stuff like that, training. It's pretty fun.
"I always wanted to skate with the team, get around them and get to know some of the guys."
Most of the young fans were camera shy when Rutherford entered the media room shortly after 10 a.m. ET. Rutherford stood at the podium and asked his newest signees if they had any tips for the defending back-to-back champions.
Raymond was the only one to answer.
"Get a goal, or you won't get any more breakfast, lunch or dinner," he said.
Rutherford laughed and said he'd consider it.
"We could do that," Rutherford said, "because we feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner."
After the short press conference, the young fans were led to the practice rink and eventually behind the bench. They skated with select Penguins before heading to the locker room, where they each had a locker stall.
Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel were last to leave the ice.
"I'm glad that they can get out here," Crosby said. "It's fun that they can get on the ice. It's one thing to see everything, but to get on the ice is pretty cool. It looks like they enjoyed that part of it. … They were just happy to be out there. Pretty much had to boot them off. They would've stayed out there all day."
Each child and their parents expressed gratitude for the Penguins' hospitality throughout the day. Meredith Hoover, Jason's mother, was especially thankful after she informed Make-A-Wish they would have to travel back to their hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, before Pittsburgh's game Wednesday. The Penguins worked with Make-A-Wish to accommodate a change, allowing Jason, 9, to instead watch the Penguins face the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 18.
"I can't say enough about [the Penguins]," Hoover said. "We definitely didn't expect this level of personal touch that they've given."
William Evans, Logan's father, was equally impressed with how the Penguins treated his son.
"I think it's fantastic," Evans said. "It shows how much compassion they have for other people.
"It's about the children. You just can't do enough for situations that he was in or other children were in, so I think it's really great. It shows the fans, it shows people, that they care."