As the season turns from summer to fall, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans, look forward to the season on the ice the most.
This weekend was the start of training camp at CONSOL Energy Center, and Saturday, Sept. 17 was the first practice open to the public. Fans lined up early for their first chance to see their team in action.
“We go to Duquesne so it’s right by," explained student Lindsay Schriekey. "And when we heard Pens practice was happening we got up nice and early, 7 a.m."
With the Penguins boasting a sellout streak of 210 games, open practices give fans a chance to see their team in action. Parking and admission is free, while selected concessions and PensGear powered by Reebok, the Pens official store located inside the Trib Total Media Gate, are also available.
“It’s so great because I don’t get to go to a lot of games because tickets are really hard to get so this is great to be able to see everyone,” Schriekey added.
Other than the team, the sessions invite fans into the new home of the Penguins, many for the first time. Opened last season, the CONSOL Energy Center is a brand-new facility that is at the forefront of all sports venues.
“Instead of just watching it on TV every night, a chance to sit here and watch is going to be nice. It’s incredible just the way they got it all set up,” stated University of Pittsburgh student and Rochester, NY native David Uhrmacher.
The free seating in the lower bowl of the center allows fans to experience the game up against the glass, and hear player and coaches interact during chalk-talks and drills.
“My kids made me be a Pens fan,” said Dick Welsh, who was in town for a class reunion but resides in Ocala, FL. They taught me the game and I’m hooked. I did this 4-5 years ago at the old arena. It’s (CONSOL) awesome.”
Many fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2011-12 campaign as this offseason has brought anything but peace of mind.
“I’m really anticipating Sid’s return. I think he’ll come back strong," said lifelong Pens fan and Hopewell, PA native Marcie Altieri. "I’m also very excited for (Evgeni) Malkin. I heard that he trained hard this offseason and I’m hoping that he has a real good season, also."
All amenities aside, the open practices this weekend are just one of many events the Penguins host that are for both the fans entertainment and enjoyment.
"I think that’s really nice that they do that, and they do a lot of nice things,” Altieri added. “The Pens are very good to their fans. Hopefully, Dan (Bylsma) will pick the right people and we’ll have a great team this year.”
Gates open at 8:30 a.m. and each practice session runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., including an intra-squad scrimmage at 10 a.m.
The Penguins start-off their preseason schedule Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. when the Detroit Red Wings come to Pittsburgh. The regular-season opener is set for Thursday, Oct. 6, at 10 p.m. in Vancouver vs. the Canucks.