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Pens say thank you with Fan Appreciation Night

by Christa Eaton / Pittsburgh Penguins

While all fans who attended the Penguins' regular-season finale against the New York Rangers on Saturday went home winners, a few of them had experiences they'll never forget thanks to the organization hosting their annual Fan Appreciation Night.

"We love recognizing the wonderful fans we have in Pittsburgh," Penguins Director of Fan Development and Special Events Jill Shipley said. "This is just one opportunity that we have the chance to go back and thank them for all their support throughout the year."

All of the fans that attended the game received a free scratch card upon having their tickets scanned. That made them eligible to win numerous prizes, including a chance to win a "Shirt Off Our Back." 

The annual post-game jersey presentation is the most anticipated part of Fan Appreciation Night. The players greet the 23 lucky winners on the ice, autograph the jersey, and then take a picture with them. 

"The 'Shirts Off Our Backs' ceremony has become quite a tradition in Pittsburgh," Shipley said. "Fans love it. They look forward to it every single year."

John Rosselli of Clearfield is a 25-year season-ticket holder who was lucky enough to go home with a signed Jared McCann jersey.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," Rosselli said. "I've coming to these games for I don't know how many years, so it was kind of surreal. It was very, very rewarding."

Another dedicated Penguins fan, Cyndi Yount from Mt. Lebanon, has been a season-ticket holder since the 90s. She got an early birthday present when she discovered that she would be meeting Evgeni Malkin and getting his jersey.

"I couldn't believe it, I never win anything," Yount said. "I turn 60 this month, so this is a good present."

The jerseys were presented in numerical order, so the final three fans were all standing with their hands clenched as they hoped to pull out No. 87. Ed Reithmiller from Pittsburgh was lucky winner who got to shake hands with Sidney Crosby. 

"I was stunned," Reithmiller said. "I was very surprised. I think it's great, it's a great opportunity. Just the way the Penguins interact with the fans, it's a great experience."

The biggest prize of the night was the Penguins Passport promotion. The winner of this promotion received an all-expenses paid trip to see the Penguins take on the Lightning in Tampa next season, a round-trip flight for six on an Elite Airways private jet, six suite tickets to a Penguins-Lightning game at Amalie Arena, luxury hotel accommodations in Bradenton, transportation to the game, dinner during the trip and $5,000.

Five fans lined up on the ice by a numbered box in hopes that their box would have the grand prize inside. The first three numbers did not have the prize inside, so it came down to the final two boxes. Brian Rinaman from Mars, who was entered through Windows Nation, opened his and found that he would be going to Florida. 

"I didn't really believe it," Rinaman said. "This won't sink in until I go to Tampa. I don't know what's going through my head. I can't believe I freakin' won." 

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