Despite a warm autumn so far this year, winter is inevitably coming, and Penguins players helped prepare Pittsburgh's local youth for the cold on Monday afternoon at the DICK'S Sporting Goods location in Cranberry as part of the Salvation Army's "Project Bundle-Up."
"Obviously you want to be clothed well in winter," Ryan Reaves said. "To be able to help out the kids and get them ready, and let them look good while doing it is obviously a good time."
Reaves, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is certainly used to the frigid temperatures that winter provides, and today he helped 8-year-old Maddie prepare for what is supposed to be a colder one this year.
"Today was good with Maddie here," Reaves said. "We got a couple things for winter and she's going to be looking real good this winter, decked out in white and pink."
"It was fun," Maddie exclaimed after picking out her new winter attire. "I'm really excited for the photo booth."
The photo booth was a hot spot on the second-floor of the DICK's store, with some kids expressing their desire to hit the photo booth first, and play with all the funky props it provided, before shopping at all.
The shopping experience was a fun time for both parties, as this spree marked the 11th year that Penguins' corporate partner DICK'S Sporting Goods has hosted the Salvation Army's "Project Bundle-Up" event.
The event, part of the annual "Penguins Personal Shopping Day," pairs Penguins players with local middle school children selected by the Salvation Army to purchase new winter clothing such as coats, hats, gloves, and boots.
The event, which got underway after Monday's practice, also partnered with Emporio: A Meatball Joint, who donated lunch for all shopping participants.
"We're looking to bring some joy to the area kids with providing them with their warm winter gear," said Shelby Allen, a community & corporate relations specialist with DICK'S Sporting Goods. "The temperatures are soon going to drop, so we're working with the players and taking the kids shopping."
Shopping they did, and the contrast between the players and their partners was something to marvel at, from shyness to chattiness to fashion choice, and in relation to the duration of their shopping experience, the amount of indecisiveness.
"Shoes first, where are the shoes," Evgeni Malkin said, on a mission to locate where the boots were, acknowledging the remodeling of the store. They eventually found the boots, where they decided to go a size up, which was the norm to give kids room to grow.
Players spent time trying to get to know the kids throughout the day. One thing that was discovered is how prevalent pink and purple will be this upcoming winter, as a lot of kids opted for matching outfits when given the opportunity to select what they wanted.
"It's cool. You see how thankful these kids are and how nice they are," Brian Dumoulin said. "The winters here can be harsh, so it's good for them to be able to come here and pick out clothes that they like and some clothes that will keep them warm."
More common ground was found in the amount of missing teeth between the hockey players and their youthful counterparts. This became evident when Ian Cole and his partner both gleefully sported toothless grins at the photo booth.
The photo booth was decked out with lots of props, including a viking helmet, which fittingly enough, Patric Hornqvist donned. There were also a handful of funny glasses, from overgrown shades to ones adorning peace signs. After the four-picture set came out, the players autographed them for their shopping pals, signaling the conclusion to an exciting day.
"This is one of our most favorite events we do in the community," Allen said. "The players are so great with the kids, and I think they have some really cool fashion sense because some of the kids walk away with some really good stuff."
"My favorite part was being able to get my new boots," 9-year old Tim said. "It was awesome. Today I was with Sidney Crosby."