The "Little Penguins" program provides free head-to-toe hockey equipment to local youngsters ages 4-9. The kids then have weekly practice sessions to learn the fundamentals of hockey at 28 participating rinks.
Children registered in the Delmont program, who were taking part in their second practice session at Center Ice Arena on Saturday, had a surprise waiting for them.
An appearance from Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier had the kids jumping for joy as they lined up for autographs and pictures. Trottier won six Stanley Cups as a player, including two with the Penguins. He also recorded 541 goals and 901 assists for 1,425 points in 1,279 NHL games.
"The Little Penguins is a fun learn to skate program," Trottier said. "I think it's awesome that the Penguins started the whole thing and I know Sidney Crosby is a big part of it."
Video: Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey
"Little Penguins" is presented courtesy of Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, DICK'S Sporting Goods, CCM, USA Hockey, the NHL and NHLPA.
"This is the 11th season of the program. Little Penguins started way back in 2008 and now the league's taken it on," said Mike Chiasson, the Penguins' manager of youth hockey. "It's the third year that it's been a league-wide initiative and since the program began for the Penguins we've put over 11,000 kids on the ice."
Trottier took the ice with the kids and gave them a motivational speech, which pumped the kids up before the lessons began. He was joined by the Penguins mascot, Iceburgh, who was greeted by loud screams from the kids.
"It was so fun, meeting Iceburgh was the best," said Cale Ross, one of the skaters.
The boys and girls participating went through various drills like puck-handling, skating and passing. As time wound down, the skaters got the chance to practice their penguin slides with Iceburgh before giving each other stick taps.
After taking off their equipment, the kids all got in line to get their autograph pucks and pictures from Trottier.
"That's why I'm here. Just to share some experiences, sign some autographs for the kids, take some pictures and tell a few stories," Trottier said. "I think I'm here to wind them up, but I think it's in reverse, they're winding me up. I'll leave here feeling all youthful and with energy. Here I am, a 60-year old man, but I've got kids and grandkids so I know what it's all about. The appreciation factor for the Penguins doing these types of things is fantastic."