Skip to main content
Hockeyville USA

Hockeyville USA winner rolls out red carpet for Penguins

More than 2,000 attend practice at Belle Vernon arena

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

BELLE VERNON, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins showed up at Rostraver Ice Garden on Sunday to a red-carpet arrival, and the hundreds of fans waiting outside to greet them let them know their appreciation.

The players signed autographs and took pictures with fans before walking inside to the rink, getting dressed and stepping onto the ice for a practice in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people. On Sunday, the Penguins will host the St. Louis Blues at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

"It's awesome," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "I was fortunate enough to play in the game in Johnstown (Pennsylvania, 2015 Kraft Hockeyville winner) and then this year again (to be) in Belle Vernon, it's great. I'm glad to see they are getting the arena upgrades because that's a huge part of it."

Video: Penguins practice at the Rostraver Ice Garden

Cole, defenseman Olli Maata and forward Conor Sheary were the three players here Sunday who played in the game two years ago. None will play tonight as all players who practiced at the Ice Garden were not on the game roster.

"It was pretty similar to what it was in Johnstown," Maatta said. "It was a smaller town but it felt like the whole town was at the game, which was awesome. It's pretty awesome to see so many people excited. It was fun having that atmosphere to practice to. The little kids here...it's something just to give back a bit."

The Penguins skated for about an hour before ending with shootout drills, much to the delight of the fans.

"It's really cool. Seeing everybody out here is great," Cole said. "We know that we get a ton of support here in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. I think it was very similar to this. Just the excitement around it. They don't get the opportunity to see us or do something like this very often so for us to come and hopefully makes a couple of kids' days is what it's all about."

Video: Kennedy meets fans, signs autographs at Giant Eagle

The money raised during the festivities this weekend will go toward Belle Vernon and the surrounding communities.

"For them to get all the proceeds for the game [tonight] is huge for this rink and all the young kids in this area," defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. "To be able to get some renovations put into the rink is really big and we're happy we can come help. I never had an NHL team come skate in my home rink ... it reminds me of skating in a rink when I was little."

About an hour north at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the Penguins who are participating in the game, including centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and goalie Matt Murray, practiced at the same time.

The Blues flew in Sunday morning following a 4-0 home loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday. Forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Brayden Schenn, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and goalie Carter Hutton are among the players who are scheduled to participate in the game.

View More