Penguins season ticket holder John Gross (@skyfall215) sent a tweet Thursday afternoon reading: "@penguins thanks for having Coach Sullivan give me a call today."
The team also got a voicemail from a season ticket holder who had just received a call from defenseman Justin Schultz: "We really, really appreciate it. It was a glimmer of hope that made my husband and I smile over that. We really feel a part of the family of the Penguins."
Then there was this message from Wendy Bishop (@wendbish) on her conversation with Conor Sheary: "Thank @csheary13 for calling today to say hi, and thanks to the @penguins for arranging calls to STH. Stay safe & can't wait to see you back on the ice"
Those were just three of the nearly 500 season ticket holders who have or will receive calls from Penguins players from Thursday to Saturday. In that span, every player and coach on the team, and even general manager Jim Rutherford, will be taking part in calls to check in on the team's biggest supporters. Captain Sidney Crosby was one of the first to place calls on Thursday.
"Season ticket holders think of the Penguins as an extension of their family," said Chad Slencak, Penguins vice president of ticket sales, echoing the voicemail above. "For them to personally connect with a player or coach is an amazing experience. They've been blown away."
And the players and coaches have felt the same way.
"I think it's a way for our organization - the players, the coaches, the management - to reach out and communicate with our fanbase that we're so appreciative of," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "And it gives us an opportunity to have 1-on-1 conversations with people, to check in and see how they're doing through these difficult times and to express our gratitude and our appreciation for what they do and the support they provide for our team. We couldn't do what we do if it wasn't for the support of the fans and the season ticket holders and everyone in the Pittsburgh community that gets behind our team the way they do."
Members of the Penguins ticketing staff have been calling season ticket holders since the NHL initiated its pause, placing over 4,000 calls in total.
"We aren't calling to do a sale or have business conversations, basically we're asking if they're OK or need anything," Slencak said. "We're just letting them know that we are here Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m. operating as normal even though we're working from home. So, if people want to call us or e-mail us, they can."
One ticketing staffer even spoke on the phone with a season-ticket holder for over two hours.
"They got off on a couple tangents," Slencak laughed. "Another family member took over on the call when they found a commonality and it just kind of kept going. We've been chuckling about it for about a week now."
But adding the players to the mix raised it to a new level of excitement.
And season ticket holders have voiced their appreciation: "Thank you Pens organization for always doing such nice things," one wrote in an e-mail to the club after hearing from a player. "Not only for season ticket holders but also for the entire city of Pittsburgh!"
Or as Scott Choura (@SChoura) tweeted: "Thanks for the call @csheary13 - Perfect timing as I needed a break pressure washing our patio. Proud @penguins STH."