It’s not often that you can find an 18-year-old lifelong California resident who can say that he has made the cross-country flight to Pittsburgh before – let alone doing it twice.
|Beau Bennett makes his first visit to Pittsburgh as a member of the Penguins organization at development camp. Credit - Getty Images |
Then again, it’s not too often that you find an 18-year-old California native who calls hockey his favorite sport, either.
But Beau Bennett
is not like most 18-year-olds who call the Golden State home.
While other kids spent their youth on the baseball diamond hitting balls over the fence or along the shoreline riding wakeboards, Bennett instead focused on hockey. He picked up the sport by following in his brother’s footsteps as a roller hockey player before switching over to ice hockey.
Bennett’s on-ice success is what led to the Southern California native twice making the cross-country journey to Pittsburgh for major hockey tournaments.
Bennett first visited Pittsburgh for a national “AAA” tournament as a peewee player. He most recently visited the Steel City two years ago to play in the Under-18 AAA nationals at the RMU Island Sports Center when he was a member of the Los Angeles Junior Kings.
“We had a great time in Pittsburgh on both occasions,” Bennett said. “I noticed that it was really a hockey town. There seemed to be a lot of support at the rink. That really gets me excited for this development camp.”
Bennett, who hails from Gardena, California, is making his third trip to Pittsburgh this week as he and many of the Penguins’ top prospects and recent draft picks visit for the team’s annual prospect development camp to be held at Mellon Arena and Iceoplex at Southpointe.
The 6-foot-1, 173-pound forward is eager for this visit as he will meet many of his future teammates and coaches for the first time.
“I am feeling pretty good,” Bennett said. “I am definitely a little nervous to be meeting all the players and coaches, but I’m not nervous about getting on the ice. That’s why you play the game of hockey. When I get on the ice, all nerves will get out of the way.
“I think with this being my first development camp I just want to take it all in. I also just want to see the city of Pittsburgh and get a feel for it. I want to see how everything works so that in the long run I’ll be able to come play in Pittsburgh.”
Because of the high profile that comes with being a first-round pick, Bennett knows that he will be one of the focal points of the media’s attention. Bennett, who called himself shy by nature in large media gatherings, is excited for that challenge thanks to a little practice last month at the draft.
“The draft was my first real taste of interviews,” Bennett said. “I had never really gone through that. I was a little nervous because I get nervous talking in front of a large group of people. What I think will help with that is when I get on the ice because then all nerves will go away. I think being on the ice will allow me to be a lot more comfortable talking to the media and all the guys.”
In addition to having to hold court in interview sessions, Bennett is also looking forward to the training seminars which are a big part of development camp. The University of Denver recruit has his pencil and notebook packed in anticipation of gaining important information concerning nutrition, psychology and off-ice training which he can take with him to college when he enrolls next month.
“I think hearing from the different professionals they are bringing in is going to be a great asset,” Bennett said. “You have to take everything they say in because it all will help you progress and be a better hockey player.”
As far as some of the off-ice activities scheduled for the players throughout the week, Bennett advised the other campers that they shouldn’t be too worried about him showing them up.
“I have never been paintballing, so I am excited to go for the first time,” he said. “I can knock down the pins when I bowl, but my talents don’t go much farther than that.”
Besides, he’s going to be too busy enjoying his time in the ‘Burgh after the business approach his teams took on his previous trips to the city.
“The last two times I was there it was all business,” Bennett said. “We just stuck to eating pasta dinners and really didn’t get to go out that much. I am excited to get to see the whole city and try some things out in the area to get used to Pittsburgh a little bit.”