Seven thousand students from the Pittsburgh area were in attendance for the Penguins' practice on Monday at PPG Paints Arena. In conjunction with Ever-Fi, the Penguins Foundation held the open practice to encourage Ever-Fi's "Hockey Scholar Program," which helps students engage STEM concepts with hockey-related questions and lessons.
"It was fun, everyone here likes it and I liked how they introduced our school," William Regeaster said, a student at Carson Middle School. "For my first time being in the arena it was really cool and awesome."
Josh Getzoff and Phil Bourque of the Penguins Radio Network were on hand to emcee the event. Each player was introduced as they took the ice, wearing a special practice jersey with their name and number on the back. Every player that stepped onto the ice was accompanied by cheers and applause as this truly was a great day on and off the ice.
"This not only gets the kids excited for the Stanley Cup champions, but also just knowing the Penguins are invested in their education," Alyssa Mahramus, School Implementation Manager at Ever-Fi, said, "There's many opportunities for these kids."
Hockey Scholar is a nationwide program that is free to students and teachers, aiming to give every student the same opportunities in education through experiments and lessons taught with hockey. While Ever-Fi is national, the assistance they receive from the Penguins Foundation and community outreach they achieve together is something special.
"The Pittsburgh Penguins foundation has a great hand in the program with events like the open practice, free skating passes for the students, field trips to the Lemieux (Complex)," Mahramus said, "Just a lot of great ways to connect the community for learning."
With 12,000 children in the program, Hockey Scholar is making a huge impact in the greater Pittsburgh area. However, it's very clear that they are looking to increase that number as much as possible, hopefully involving all 54,000 students in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area.
"Our passion and goal overall is to get information to students, to give them the same learning experience," Mahramus said.
As the day went on, the crowd of students kept showing their excitement with constant cheering followed by a "Let's Go Pens" chant. Bourque and Getzoff gave insight to the drills that were projected on the Jumbotron with their commentary giving more understanding of the game of hockey to these young fans.
Video: Penguins Hosted their 10th Annual Kids Open Practice