Penguins fans got their first glimpse of the team after a long summer when the organization held a free open training camp practice at CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday morning.
Players took to the ice at 9:00 a.m., with doors opening for fans a half hour before. However, the line to get into the arena formed long before that – with some fans arriving as early as 7:15.
Saturday’s practice was divided into two parts, with two groups splitting ice time. The first group, which consisted of players such as Olli Maatta, Brandon Sutter, and Marc-Andre Fleury, performed drills from 9:00-10:45 and competed in a controlled scrimmage from 10-10:45 as well.
The second group followed the same format, starting at 11:00 and finishing up at 12:45. A few guys from the second group included Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, and 2014 first-round draft pick Kasperi Kapanen.
Overall, it was a great atmosphere, with songs like Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" playing during ice scrapings while fans visited PensGear (to get their new third jerseys, perhaps?) and bought lunch at the open concession stands on the concourse.
They were very excited to see their beloved Penguins finally back in Pittsburgh to get ready for the 2014-15 season. Cameron Weaver, who came with his dad and little brother, thought it was awesome to see some of the minor-league guys in addition to the established veterans.
“It was really cool,” Weaver said of the open practice. “I liked seeing all the players from the minors. I like Jayson Megna, I like Letang, and I like Kunitz. I’m expecting the Pens to do really, really good.”
Thomas Big agrees.
“I really appreciate coming down looking at the younger guys to see what we’ve got in our future,” Big said. “That keeps me keeping my season tickets longer as the time goes on, but I really enjoy coming down and watching them. It’s great it’s all free too – look at all the families coming down with their kids.”
Of course, for Penguins players like Brandon Sutter and Kris Letang, they love seeing their fans as much as their fans love seeing them.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played or skated in front of our fans,” Sutter said. “It’s good for them to come out and support us. Hopefully they enjoyed our practice.”
“It’s always fun,” Letang added. “You expect that in Pittsburgh now. Fans are really behind their teams, and the chance to practice in front of a crowd and people reacting to a goal you score, even if it’s practice, is always fun.”