Hockey stars of tomorrow and current dek hockey stars of today were surprised Thursday afternoon by Pens prospects, who dropped in to practice, instruct and play with youth hockey players throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
“This is a great event today,” said Dave Soltesz, president of the Penguins Foundation. “It’s about getting kids out, introducing them to the game, getting them fit.
“There are players spread out all over. It brings more attention to it with the prospects coming. There is an average of 300, 400 players per dek. The program is really working.”
Every year the team’s prospects dropped into various dek rinks around the area during development camp.
“It’s awesome. How often do you get to spend time with stars,” said parent David Dudas from Penn Hills, who had two children participating in a clinic. “I’ve sent pictures to my wife. This has been a lot of fun.”
Grandmother Georgia Law from Harmarville watched her grandsons Teddy and Taylor playing dek hockey alongside future NHLers.
“They love it. Both of them live hockey constantly,” Law said. “There are goals in the yard. They’re always playing hockey.”
Assistant general manager Bill Geurin, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s leading playoff scorer Jake Guentzel, 2016 second-round pick goaltender Filip Gustavsson and Hobey Baker finalist (best college hockey player) Ethan Prow were among a group that visited a dek clinic at Riverside Park in Oakmont, Pa.
“Just seeing them smile is what makes it fun. It’s just fun to be here with these kids,” Guentzel said. “Being around pro guys, you’re so happy to see them and be here.
“Hearing them cheer when you walk in is something special.”
Prospects also dropped into clinics at Brookline Memorial Park, Paul Sciullo Park, North Park and South Park. The Penguins Foundation and Highmark have built 12 dek rinks around the region to grow the sport.
“The big thing about this project of $2.3 million dollars, we couldn’t have done it without Highmark contributing $1.5 and the Foundation the other $800,000,” Soltesz said.