On Saturday, the Penguins hosted approximately 4,000 loyal and dedicated fans that woke up early on a weekend to take in three training camp practices and a scrimmage at CONSOL Energy Center – all of which were free and open to the public.
The fans were lined up outside the arena before the doors opened at 8:15 a.m., and were treated to over four-and-a-half hours of fast-paced drills and game action – a staple of any training camp under head coach Dan Bylsma.
|Fans filling out the seats at the Penguins open training camp practice |
Bylsma noticed the team’s supporters gathering outside the gates on his way to work, and he appreciated them sacrificing sleep to cheer on the guys.
“I thought the fans and the crowd gave our players a jump today. It is good to have them in the building,” said Bylsma. “I know when I was coming to the rink and it was pretty early, there were fans pretty excited to have the opportunity to get in here today and see these players and this team for the first time this year.”
Two of the three practice groups – A and C – faced off in a two-period, 36-minute scrimmage that gave Penguins fans the chance to watch Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury, among others.
Group A shut out Group C, 3-0, with goals credited to linemates Jussi Jokinen and Matt D’Agostini and 2012 first-round pick defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
Jason Carlin, a 20-year military veteran, visited CONSOL Energy Center to watch the Penguins play for the first time today and was “very impressed with the building.”
“It is definitely interesting seeing how they practice and get ready for the game,” he added. “Watching them compete against each other, it was a little more physical and a lot more checking than I expected.”
Season ticket holder Kevin Buck said he and his wife were here for one reason: “anticipation of the season.”
“It is something different that we have never done before, and it’s an opportunity to come out and see younger kids and our current players at the same time,” said Buck.
The fan base seemed pleased with the performance and atmosphere today; even a groom and two of his best men made it down to the arena. The wedding was not starting until five, so they all figured why not take in a Penguins practice to make the big day all that much more special.
Captain Sidney Crosby said after practice it’s important to give fans like Buck and Carlin a chance to come out and see how the players prepare for the season ahead.
“I think a lot of guys in here have fun working hard and getting better out there together so hopefully the fans can see that,” he said. “Today was pretty special, [fans] got to see a little bit of the skating tests. It’s not always fun having thousands of people seeing us suffer through that, but I’m sure they got a good idea of what a training camp is like for us.”
The next chance the fans will have to see the Penguins in action at CONSOL Energy Center will be on Monday, Sept. 16, when Pittsburgh hosts the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m.
Before that, the Penguins will travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets in the first exhibition game of the season for both teams on Sunday. The contest will be televised regionally on ROOT Sports with puck drop scheduled for 6 p.m.