On the first day of heavy snowfall in Pittsburgh, it was only fitting that the Penguins shopped for winter clothing with underprivileged children.
All Penguins players took part in the Salvation Army’s “Project Bundle-Up” Program on Monday at Dick’s Sporting Goods at The Mall at Robinson. As part of the annual “Penguins Personal Shopping Day,” the players shopped with local middle school children for essential winter clothing: such as coats, hats, gloves, boots and……snowboards?
“He wanted a snowboard,” forward Matt Cooke
said of Kenneth, his shopping partner. “We made a pact that he wouldn’t stand on it. So no standing or you’re going to get me in trouble.”
Shopping for children’s clothes is nothing new to Cooke, a father of three. Though there was one major difference.
“(My children) don’t run as much as Kenneth,” Cooke said with Kenneth bouncing on his lap. “Shopping was probably the easiest part. The toughest part was chasing him around the store. He tried to dodge me in the clothes here and there.”
In spite of the extra cardio session, Cooke enjoyed his first Project Bundle-Up experience.
“It was a blast for me,” Cooke said. “(Kenneth) went for a ride, upside down on my shoulder. All-in-all, we had a lot of fun.”
Monday marked the Penguins' 17th year working with Project Bundle-Up, and the third straight year at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
As the longest tenured Penguin, Brooks Orpik
experienced his fair share of the event over the years.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Orpik said. “I wouldn't say you ever get used to it. It’s just one day to give back to these kids and get them ready for the snow that’s finally come. It’s always fun to put a smile on these guys’ faces.”
Orpik didn’t have to shoulder the burden alone. His companion, Treonne, shopped with both Orpik and Evgeni Malkin
“One of them sat down with me. The other just wanted to come along with me and him,” Treonne said. “It’s very exciting.”
Ruslan Fedotenko and his partner, Andrew, decided to add a non-clothing item. The duo picked up a brand new basketball. Fedotenko tried to suggest a soccer ball, but Andrew already made his decision.
“He knew exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want,” Fedotenko said. “It was very easy for me to shop. If you ask him, ‘Do you like that?’ ‘No, I don’t like that.’ That’s good enough. I think that’s pretty easy.”
With the shopping over, the players wound down by chatting with their partners and sharing some food. They joked with the children, signed autographs, took pictures and enjoyed the moment.
“It's fun for us,” Sidney Crosby
said. “These kids make us laugh a lot. It’s great for them to be able to get some new stuff. We’re all pretty happy to be involved with it.”
And now the children can brave the heavy snowfall fully prepared and warm, including Crosby's little buddy Aquill.
“This guy helped me pick out some good stuff,” Crosby said of his companion. “He’s going to be well equipped.”