CALGARY, Alberta - The Penguins had a practice scheduled for noon on Wednesday at Calgary's Stampede Corral. But the team bus instead drove to the Saddledome where head coach Mike Sullivan unveiled a surprise to the team.
Instead of practicing, they would be a holding a friendly scrimmage…outdoors.
The Penguins put on their gear at the Saddledome and jumped on a bus headed to the Valley Ridge Community Association outdoor rink where they played 4-on-4. There were no benches, so the players not playing just stood along the boards in the neutral zone while the coaches looked on through fencing.
"It was fun. Just being in the outdoors lightens the mood a little bit," forward Jake Guentzel said. "You don't get to skate outdoors much anymore. A lot of people grew up doing that. For all of us it brings back a lot of memories."
The players were divided into two teams (Black vs. Gold). They split the first two games. The final game was close when Sullivan told the players they only had five minutes left on the ice. When no one scored, Sullivan declared "next goal wins."
"It was like your dad saying five minutes and you're done," forward Zach Aston-Reese joked.
Chad Ruhwedel scored the clutch goal to give Black the deciding victory.
But perhaps the most fun took place after the scrimmage had ended. The players soaked up every last second on the ice, skating around and even shooting pucks into air into basketball hoops that hovered above the ice.
Defenseman Kris Letang was the last person to leave the ice, but took a wide speed lap on the ice surrounding the rink before heading to the change room.
"It was pretty fun," Aston-Reese said. "I didn't to play on too many ponds growing up, or playing outside. It's such a different experience. You're not worried about messing up. It's just a ton of fun. It's good bonding."