Penguins fans visiting their favorite local businesses on Wednesday afternoon received a treat, thanks to some special visitors.
Fans that stopped by the Dick’s Sporting Goods in McCandless, McDonald’s on Route 228 in Cranberry and Dunkin Donuts on University Boulevard in Coraopolis were surprised by the appearance of a few Penguins – who came bearing gifts.
Patric Hornqvist, Ian Cole, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot ventured out into the community to meet fans and give away game tickets as well as autographed hats and pucks.
Hornqvist made a few friends while roaming around Dick’s Sporting Goods. Among them was young Presley. The 21-month-old was riding in a stroller with his mother, Kelly Buttermore, when he made a new friend.
“We walked into Dick’s and were shopping and Patric came over and gave away free tickets and gave (Presley) a signed puck,” said Buttermore, a season-ticket holder.
Buttermore’s other sons – Ty, 8, and Chase, 9 – are avid Pens fans and both learned to play hockey through Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins program. Ty’s room in decked out in Penguins gear, which includes a logo on the wall, bed spread, a locker stall and hanging ice skates.
Needless to say, he will be envious of his brother Presley.
“I already texted my husband and said, ‘look who Presley met,’” Buttermore said. “I kept telling Presley, the boys and your dad are going to be so jealous of you when you come home.”
Hornqvist, a father himself, enjoys seeing the smiles on the children’s faces.
“That’s what you live for,” Hornqvist said. “When you have a kid it changes your life. It’s fun to give away tickets and pucks to the kids. They always get so happy and shy. It’s a good moment.”
Meanwhile, over at the Dunkin Donuts on Robert Morris University’s campus Cole was embracing his role of being a store employee.
He went behind the counter and rang people up; put a headset on and worked the drive-thru; actually created a few drinks (he made a couple of iced mochas and a caramelized coffee with, as he put it, “love and care,”); and filled a few boxes with Penguins donuts, which had black frosting and yellow sprinkles.
“My experience at Dunkin Donuts was hectic, to say the least,” Cole laughed before jokingly adding, “I was taking too long, I was in the way the whole time, kind of like how I play hockey – just getting in Sid (Sidney Crosby)’s way, getting in Geno (Evgeni Malkin)’s way. It’s pretty much the story of my life at this point. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not going to cut it.”
But while the execution may not have been there, the effort certainly was. And he thrived when it came to customer service, as Cole made sure to stop and talk with every single person who came through the door.
He laughed and joked with everybody and fulfilled every request that fans made, including photos, selfies, autographs and video messages to friends that couldn’t be there. He joined one student who was studying at a table and helped her cram for a theology test. When he found out one woman had spilled her iced tea before he got there, Cole went behind the counter and got her a new one. Those are just a couple of the many interactions Cole had throughout the day.
“I played with a lot of heart,” Cole joked. “I was working the counter, I was working the seating area, I was working the drive-thru – all poorly, I might add. But it was a lot of fun, we had a good time. Thankfully my coworkers didn’t toss me out of the drive-thru window.”
Cole was definitely selling himself short, as all of the fans who met him walked away thrilled with the experience. One group that stood out in particular were three RMU juniors – Merritt Donoghue, Jessica Mannering and Brittany Capozoli – who got permission from their professor to leave in the middle of class to come and see Cole as long as their work was done. So the girls asked Cole if he would sign a baseball cap to give their instructor in return.
He obliged, writing on the hat, “Please excuse these three nice girls for ditching class. And give them A’s. Go Pens!” before signing his name.
“Meeting him was great,” Donoghue said. “I think it’s really cool he wants to reach out and give things away, come and talk to you. It’s a really personal experience and it was great. He’s funny. He signed our iPhones and gave us tickets and honestly, we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Finally, Maatta and Pouliot were loving their trip to McDonald’s. The duo took turns ringing people up behind the counter and handing out food in the drive-thru. Pouliot even stepped behind the fryer to make some French fries, while Maatta whipped up a milkshake and gave it away, with a hug.
Written by Sam Kasan and Michelle Crechiolo. Evan Schall contributed to this report.