2011-12 MALE ICE CREW
From L to R: Matt Smith, Jared Manfredi, David Champe, Cam Jurysta, Dan Thiessen, Daniel Dugan. (Not pictured: Lee Hlavay).
On Saturday, the Penguins selected the female members of the 2011-12 Ice Crew. On Sunday, it was the guys’ turn.
Joining the ladies on the ice this season will be returning Ice Crew members David Champe, Daniel Dugan, Cameron Jurysta, Jared Manfredi and Dan Thiessen and newcomers Lee Hlavay and Matthew Smith.
“I’m really honored to represent such a great organization, and the fact that they picked me a second time around,” Thiessen said. “I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”
“Making the team is awesome,” newbie Smith said. “I couldn’t ask for a better job. I’m looking forward to an awesome season with them.”
The guys initial tryouts were the final weekend of July. The group was trimmed down to 12. That dozen arrived this past weekend for the final tryout.
The guys were tested on their skating ability, personality and enthusiasm. The guys were interviewed by the Penguins organization and then hit the ice to display their skills.
“Trying to stop without spraying was an interesting part of tryouts,” said Smith, who grew up playing hockey in his hometown outside of Buffalo. “That stuff matters. I had to learn to quickly stop without making a mess. That was a challenge, but I ended up doing all right.”
Thiessen said this year’s tryouts weren’t the same as last seasons.
“It was a lot different, much more competitive,” he said. “Everyone that came in were amazing ice skaters. I was a little nervous.”
But after much anxious waiting, the final team members were posted on a board.
“It was a relief,” Dugan said of making the team for a second season. “All of us were beside ourselves because we’ve gone through tryouts as hockey players. It was more nerve racking than last year.”
Thiessen and Dugan recalled many fond memories from the 2010-11 season, the first featuring the Ice Crew. One particular event they both recalled was before their first game, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma greeted the crew.
“Bylsma introduced himself and shook our hands,” said Dugan, who started skating in second grade and has played hockey for 17 years. “You can tell he’s a down-to-earth man and genuine. He’s such a great guy and it was an honor to meet him. That’s the type of people the Penguins have working for them. He looked me in the eye and shook my hand.”
“It was pretty intimidating to come out in front of all those people for the first time. I was nervous, but then Dan Bylsma came into the locker room before the game and wished us good luck. We kind of calmed down after that.”
Both Ice Crew veterans noted the thrill of being on the same ice with some of the best talent in the NHL.
“To share the ice with those types of players is worth all of it,” Dugan said. “In the first preseason game I skated by Sidney Crosby
and Mike Modano in the same 10 feet.”
“It was the best time I’ve ever had,” Thiessen said. “To go out in front of 18,000 fans and skating on the Penguins ice, I never thought I would ever be able to do that. To be able to skate next some of my idols is awesome. You really appreciate how good and big they are when you’re that close.”
It’s a feeling that Smith will experience in a month.
“It’s going to be neat to feel what the players feel every night, that sensation,” said Smith, who is attending Duquesne University. “It’s cool to be a part of the organization and working with Penguins fans, some of the greatest fans in the world. I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s a huge honor to be one of the two new guys and that they considered me. It’s very special.”
The veteran Ice Crew members are also excited about getting the season started.
“I’m looking forward to this season more than last year,” Dugan said. “I hope we have as much fun and make as many good memories as last year.”