Two weekends ago the Penguins picked half of the team’s first-ever Ice Crew when team coordinator Laura Spencer chose eight females. Spencer rounded out her squad on Wednesday night with the addition of six males following tryouts at the Penguins’ Iceoplex at Southpointe practice facility.
The night began with about 80 male candidates vying to join the girls. Following a pair of group interviews and an on-ice session, Spencer and her panel of judges narrowed the field down to 18 finalists. Those 18 then went through a longer individual interview before Spencer emerged to deliver the good news to the six who made the final cut.
“I couldn’t be more satisfied with the six guys we chose,” Spencer said. “Their personalities both on and off the ice really shined through. These guys are exactly what we are looking for on this team.”
With a plethora of talented skaters competing for the few openings on the final roster, Spencer and her judges had their work cut out for them.
“It was a huge challenge picking from this group of guys because they were all really great skaters and they came from hockey backgrounds,” Spencer said. “It was also challenging for them because they couldn’t spray stop. They are used to hockey skating but as members of the Ice Crew we have to clean up the ice not mess it up more.”
Now that the Ice Crew roster is complete, Spencer plans to get started right away getting the team ready to perform when the Penguins’ home preseason opener against the Detroit Red Wings rolls around on Sept. 22 at CONSOL Energy Center.
“It is going to be so exciting to have the whole group together,” Spencer said. “I can’t wait for them to all meet each other and then to get on the ice and get them practicing as a whole unit.”
Each of the men picked for the Ice Crew were ecstatic when they glanced at the board where the final numbers were posted.
“I am very excited to be chosen to the team,” Dan Dugan said. “I can’t wait to get on the ice. I am getting goose bumps just thinking about it. To be able to be a part of the games is going to be amazing.”
“This was a really amazing experience, especially getting picked for the team,” Dan Thiessen added. “I was pretty nervous getting on the ice with a lot of guys there. I wasn’t sure how I would shape up compared to the other guys, but once I got skating some of the nerves got out.”
Wednesday’s evaluation process began with each of the competitors interviewing twice before the panel of judges. Each was asked to provide their name, how long they played hockey and why they wanted to join the Ice Crew the first time. The questions were more in-depth the second time around and included a little Penguins trivia.
“I like talking to people so I wasn’t too nervous,” Thiessen said. “I like interacting with people and answering questions. That’s all that it is.”
“I feel like I have a good personality so I wasn’t really worried about the interview,” Dugan said. “I wasn’t going to be tripped up on Penguins trivia either.”
While the interview process for the men was very similar to what it was for the females, the on-ice portion of tryouts differed slightly.
The men did not have to use any of the snow shovels, but rather the first time through they skated to center ice, did a hockey stop without spraying snow and skated backwards to the opposite goal line. When they came back down the ice they were allowed to perform a trick for the judges.
“On the way back we got to do a trick, so I shot the duck,” Dugan said. “It was a lot of fun.”
During the second run the guys had to stop at the near blue line, center ice and the far blue line before coming back along the player benches.
Now that the final roster is complete the men who made the squad can begin looking forward to the different things Spencer will have them doing over the course of the coming season.
“I am really excited about the charity events,” Dugan said. “The Penguins always do a nice job in that regard. I think it will be fun to be a part of that.”
“I am really excited to just interact with the fans and talk to people,” Thiessen said. “This should be an exciting endeavor.”