Pens Players Give Lucky Season Ticket Holders A Tour to Remember
/ Pittsburgh Penguins
When Jeremy and Jennifer Evans came to CONSOL Energy Center with their sons Cameron and Connor on Monday to pick up their season tickets, they were shocked to see Marc-Andre Fleury sitting behind the security desk at the arena’s administrative entrance.
Five-year-old Cameron was especially speechless before turning to his dad and squeaking, “That’s Fleury!”
Jeremy and Jennifer watched bemusedly as Cameron and his 3-year-old brother excitedly surrounded the Penguins goaltender, who asked them a series of questions about themselves.
“Tell him you were playing goalie in overtime of a championship game,” Jeremy urged Cameron, who plays youth hockey in the North Pittsburgh group.
“Yeah, there was a penalty shot and I saved it!” Cameron told Fleury, who exclaimed, “That’s the best!” with a big smile before giving him a high-five.
That was just the start of the family’s memorable tour throughout the arena, as another star Pens player was waiting just a few feet away at the elevators.
Phil Kessel escorted the Evans upstairs to where Kris Letang was sitting at a reception desk pretending to be on the phone. After chatting with the family for a few minutes, head coach Mike Johnston came to lead them down the hallway to the locker room.
And there, they found Sidney Crosby sitting in his stall awaiting their arrival next to a jersey with the family’s last name stitched on the back.
Cameron wasn’t as speechless this time, as he immediately told Crosby a line he had practiced telling the Pens captain before.
“(Cameron) getting to tell Sidney Crosby that he’s his favorite player is just awesome because we’ve actually talked about that,” Jeremy said. “We asked him, ‘what would you ever do if you ever met Sidney Crosby?’ And he always said ‘well, I would tell him he’s my favorite player and ask him if he wants to come over for dinner and to play hockey in my driveway.’ That was always his response. So I don’t think (Crosby) got the dinner and hockey invitation, but that’s okay (laughs).”
After presenting the family with their jersey – which was signed by all four players participating in the pick-up – and showing them the locker room, Crosby took the family for a tour of the rest of the facilities, including the shooting room and gym. After that, the visit concluded, and the Evans family left home with endless memories.
“We kind of thought something was up when we first got the call, but nothing like this,” Jeremy said. “Then to come into the locker room, have coach walk us into the locker room and have Sid there, I didn’t even see the jersey there at first. Seeing Sid and experiencing that was amazing.”
Crosby said it never gets old seeing the looks on peoples’ faces when they meet him for the first time.
“This is why we do it,” Crosby said. “Hopefully it’s just something that they really enjoy and getting to meet the fans, the people that support you every night, it’s the least we can do. So we’re really happy to do it.”
The Evans family was the first of five season-ticket holder groups to visit CONSOL Energy Center on Monday and get a similar tour from Crosby, Letang, Kessel, and Fleury, while other players went out on the usual deliveries to season-ticket holders’ homes that the team does every year.
“It’s a good change,” Fleury said of the season-ticket pickup. “I think when people get a call, they expect us to bring their tickets. So I think to come to the rink, it’s just something new. Keep them on their toes.”
Season-ticket holder Lindie Droulia certainly appreciated the switch.
"I want to thank the Penguins organization for their creativity and doing something that was just such an amazing experience for all of us," she said.
SECURITY! Fresh off his excellent performance in the Pens’ Slap Shot remake scene, Marc-Andre Fleury shined yet again – this time in his role as an arena security guard. Taking over for Bob Schmidt, who has been behind that desk for the past three seasons, Fleury embraced his duties with gusto. As soon as he sat down, he began using the computer and getting situated with his work station (and honestly, didn’t look all that out of place). He used the wand on most of the season-ticket holder groups that came in and even used the camera to take people’s pictures for ID badges, including one of new teammate Phil Kessel. “I think my job was really gratifying because I would make sure everybody was safe in the building,” Fleury said solemnly.
DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB Fleury and Letang had a lot of fun meeting fans, and when there was a break between visits, the two used the desk phones to call both each other and just about everyone else in the office. After pretending to ask security to tow Fleury’s car, Letang then called vice president and controller Kevin Hart to jokingly asked for a raise. Meanwhile, downstairs Fleury dialed the extensions of as many staff members as possible and left voicemails when he could. However, at the end of the day these are a couple of pro athletes who are used to constantly moving around. And after a couple of hours sitting behind a desk, they both couldn’t take it anymore. Letang told me later he doesn’t think he could handle an office job, and Fleury agreed.
WELCOME TO PITTSBURGH This was Kessel’s first official interaction with the fans of his new team, and one season-ticket holder already had his jersey. Before heading into the arena, Droulia's seating partner Eileen Granata stopped at PensGear to buy a No. 81 sweater for her daughter – who’s a huge fan of Kessel – and decided to put it on, a choice that definitely worked out.
“It was great in the elevator to see Phil there obviously and get an autograph,” Granata said. “I was totally amazed to see him there. From an outsider looking in, he seems like he would fit in with this organization, but to actually see him participate in something like this, I truly know he’s going to be like one of us.” However, when she saw Letang upstairs she had to laugh, as Granata had originally been wearing his jersey when she arrived before swapping it out for Kessel’s. “Kris said after the first game I’ll be putting his jersey back on. I think there’s a little competition going on,” Granata laughed.
SECOND CHANCES Kara Schaefer, who is Droulia's daighter, was thrilled to have a second chance to tour the arena and meet the players after her first opportunity slipped away – literally. Schaefer had passes through a friend to visit the Pens locker room after a game against the Capitals last season and was heading there when a guy behind her, who was horsing around with his friend, fell into her as she was walking upstairs. “I have a bad knee to begin with, and it went right into the concrete and just exploded,” Schaefer said. Her friend, who’s a nurse, made her go to the emergency room. On the way there, Schaefer called her mother. “I told her the story and she was like ‘oh my God, you didn’t get to see any of the Penguins!’”
So after that night, this afternoon more than made up for missing out back then. “I was telling my mom, I thought we were just going to see the locker room, tour everything,” Schaefer said. “I thought maybe Iceburgh was going to be there. I was not expecting to see Fleury and Kessel and Letang and definitely Crosby. I literally ran out of the locker room. I was not expecting that at all. This is amazing, because I feel like it’s more personal, more 1-on-1. They’re so down-to-earth. It was very, very cool, so I was glad to have this opportunity. It redeemed what happened in February.”