The Penguins hosted more than 4,000 fans on Sunday during an open practice to participants of the Penguins 6.6K Run & Family Walk.
The inaugural Run & Family Walk started at CONSOL Energy Center, weaved through the streets of downtown and the North Shore and then returned to finish on Centre Ave. adjacent to the arena’s Trib Total Media entrance.
Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation President Dave Soltesz said over 4,500 runners and walkers participated in the race Sunday morning.
“It was amazing,” Soltesz said. “No other word for it. You start to look, over 4,500 estimated participants. That is bigger than any other sports team in the area.”
All proceeds from the run, presented by UPMC Sports Medicine, went directly to the cancer research and patient care initiatives of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and the youth hockey initiatives of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.
Following the run, race day participants and the over 250 volunteers were invited inside the arena for a special chance to take in a Penguins practice.
“We are so happy,” Nancy Angus, Executive Director of the Lemieux Foundation, said. “We can’t believe the number of people that are here at practice today, the number of people who walked and ran in the race, it is really unbelievable.”
Penguins forward Tanner Glass said after practice he was impressed with how many fans stuck around for practice.
“Especially with the Pirates playing today and all the football on television, it is pretty cool to see all the fans, especially the young fans,” Glass said. “It allows them to see what we do on a daily basis.”
One of those runners was Kourtney Watkiss, who settled in to Section 105 to enjoy practice after running in the race.
“I like it,” Watkiss said. “It is something I’ve never got to see before so it’s fun to do something different and a different way to start off the season.”
Fellow runner Doug Brown echoed those sentiments while taking in practice with his daughter, who also ran in the race.
“The race was really cool,” Brown said. “It was my first race ever, so it was pretty good. And practice is great, just an added bonus. It was cool to do the race and this is icing on the cake.”
The Penguins had a few employees participate in the race, including head coach Dan Bylsma.
“To have around 5,000 runners here today and run the race, it thought it was pretty amazing,” said Bylsma, who finished with a time of 32:34 minutes. “I did everything I could not to sprint out of the gate.”