Things got a little crazy at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday as the Pens kicked off their 50th season with the first-ever Fan Fest presented by UPMC.
The ultimate fan experience - which was split into two sessions - gave Pens supporters a new perspective of their favorite players and the organization, as they engaged in Q&A sessions with the team, head coach Mike Sullivan and GM Jim Rutherford; participated in interactive demonstrations including a kids-only press conference and cooking contest; and played several hockey-related games throughout the arena.
Highlights from the day included a Marc-Andre Fleury split, Kris Letang attempting to beatbox and Trevor Daley nailing the robot.
Fans came from all over North America to join in on the fun, including Jessica Carducci - who traveled to Pittsburgh from Portland, Indiana for the opportunity to interact with her favorite players.
"I don't get a lot of opportunities for hockey-relating things because there's not a lot in Indiana," Carducci said. "But my family lives out here and I'm from here originally. It was just a really good opportunity and it was like my birthday treat to myself to buy the tickets and come out."
Carducci also shared that her great-grandmother attended the first-ever Pens home game in October 1967, which is fitting considering this is the anniversary season.
For many fans, the experience wasn't just about meeting the players - but also celebrating being a supporter and the community around the team.
"I'm going to be around for a while," Benjamin Furmin of Forest Hills said about his commitment to the Pens. "Win or lose, we do it as a team, we do it as a city. Pittsburgh, we're all one big happy family. There's more Cups to come in this building, I feel it."
And the experience wasn't just special to the fans, but for the players as well.
"It's fun to have the chance to meet with them and do different things," Letang said. "We're not only sitting and signing autographs here, we're going down there and playing hockey with them and some are cooking. It's fun."
Players actually took turns playing drop-in hockey with young fans. At one point both Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen took to the rink to compete against young fans. Daley also spent time at the accuracy-shooting station and Fleury helped out with pint-sized goalies throughout the day.
Defensemen Ian Cole, Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin all joined Chef Geoff from UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex to cook up a salmon salad in front of fans.
Cole was particularly excited to show off his prowess in the kitchen.
"I'm excited to show my kitchen skills," Cole said. "We're using little butane burners, portable burners, I've never cooked with one of those before. I know there are no excuses, but I hope that my skills are going to translate to the small portable burners. We'll see how it goes."
The defensemen had luck with the dish, but the same could not be said for Sidney Crosby and Fleury playing Heads Up.
"Why not a French game for once?" Fleury asked with a laugh after several failed attempts to guess the move The Terminator.
Fan Fest also featured two Q&A sessions with players that gave everyone in attendance a good laugh.
Here are the highlights from the first round of questions with Crosby, Fleury, Cullen and Daley:
- A fan confronted Fleury on why he tried to steal her inflatable Stanley Cup at the Victory parade when he already had the real one. "I just had it once. I get to go like this and then I don't have it," Fleury said with his arms raised above his head.
- The guys were asked what they plan to be for Halloween. Cullen's response, "An over-aged hockey player."
- Daley was asked who he liked more, Crosby or Washington Capitals' forward Alex Ovechkin. After a little thought, Daley replied, "I think I'm going to go with Sid."
- Sad news for Pens fans - Fleury doesn't plan on bringing back his yellow pads this season. "I was told the white ones are better," the veteran goaltender said.
- Crosby also gave some advice to Pens fans who live in Philadelphia. "Find other Penguins fans," the captain said with a smile.
- The session ended with the crowd singing 'Happy Birthday' to Daley, who turned 33 on Sunday.
Kunitz, Fehr and Letang took to the main stage to answer the hard-hitting questions from the Pens' littlest fans during a kids-only press conference.
- Blue had the unanimous vote for favorite color among the guys.
- Kris Letang's favorite movies are Finding Nemo and Zootopia. "I watch them every night," Letang said.
- "I'm from Canada, so I pretty much had to play hockey," Fehr laughed when asked why he was inspired to play the sport.
- The players also discussed who the most annoying player was on the team. Kunitz determined it had to be Phil Kessel, because "we play cards on the plane and he complains a lot."
- Letang was even asked to homecoming, but unfortunately the Pens are on the road that night.
Here are the on-stage events they did in the second session…
-'5 Second Rule' with Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Derrick Pouliot. They were given a prompt and had to name three things related to it within five seconds. Wilson was the star of the game, to the point where the other guys complained that he was hogging the microphone.
- The Return of the HBK Line with Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, emceed by Paul Steigerwald.
- Player Pictionary with Patric Hornqvist, Justin Schultz and Pouliot, where they were joined by young fans in the audience.
Sullivan and Rutherford also gave their "State of the Team" address to both sessions, where the pair discussed how they plan to carry on the success of last season.
"Our approach has always been to stay in the moment and look at the game in front of us," Sullivan told the crowd. "We've had success with it before. Just stay in the moment and take it a game at a time."
Rutherford even talked about how he planned on retiring before making the trip to Pittsburgh.
"I was at a point in my career where I was thinking about not working anymore," Rutherford said with a smile spreading across his face. "Then this opportunity came up and I told my wife, 'We're going to Pittsburgh.'"
Rutherford recalled his wife Leslie asking why he wanted to take this job and his response was perfect.
"Because I want to win again," Rutherford smiled.