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Short Shifts

Crosby surprises 100 kids in Little Penguins youth hockey program

Children got tickets to skate at practice facility, didn't know players were coming

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- One hundred kids wearing Sidney Crosby jerseys were already excited to have won the opportunity to practice with new equipment at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Monday. Then, to their surprise, Crosby skated out with five of his teammates.

Crosby enjoyed the day with the Little Penguins, aged 4-9. The youth hockey program, which gives complimentary head-to-toe equipment to 2,000 children each year before they participate in "Learn to Play" sessions across the Pittsburgh region, is in its 10th year. When the kids were given their equipment for this season, they each received a "golden ticket" inviting them to practice and a skate at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

"It's fun," Crosby said. "It seems like there's a growing number, so that's good. It means a lot of kids are playing hockey. Hopefully they enjoy themselves today. … I'm happy to get out there with them. I'm sure a couple of guys will be out there too. It's a lot of kids, but we'll hopefully see a good chunk of them."

Tweet from @penguins: What's the best part about the Little Penguins Learn to Play program?Hmmm... We'd say it's a tie between free head-to-toe hockey gear and a surprise practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby, the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, USA Hockey, DICK'S Sporting Goods and CCM provide funding.

In 10 years, it has provided equipment to nearly 10,000 children.

Penguins forwards Carl Hagelin, Jake Guentzel and Riley Sheahan, defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and goalie Tristan Jarry joined Crosby.

Crosby said he enjoys giving back because it reminds him of events from when he was young.

"Just being a kid, not necessarily [meeting] anybody playing in the NHL, but local players, people you looked up to," Crosby said. "To be able to go out there with them now is a lot of fun. They have a ton of energy and they're excited. It definitely brings me back."

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