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Pens still marveling at parade experience

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

A day after their championship parade through downtown Pittsburgh, the Pens players were still marveling at the turnout from the city.

An estimated 650,000 people - which is more than double the population of the city - took to the streets to cheer on the Pens as they traveled along the parade route to Point State Park. It was an atmosphere that most players called 'unbelievable,' and rookie forward Jake Guentzel said it will always be his most cherished memory.

"Yesterday was insane," he said. "650,000, I heard? That's incredible. We have the best fans here."

While the players loved the crowd support, the fans loved seeing three of the quietest guys on the team show a different side of their personalities, as no one had more fun than Guentzel, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz.

Guentzel, 22, shared a truck with Conor Sheary and kept jumping out to run up and down the streets high-fiving fans, signing autographs and taking selfies - chugging beers the entire time. At one point, Sheary joined him to take a picture with a hilarious 'Sid and the Kids' sign.

"There were a couple funny signs. The Sid and the Kids one with the babies was pretty funny," Guentzel laughed. "That's probably the best one."

Meanwhile, Maatta, 22, and Schultz, 26, shared a truck and also downed a bunch of beers that they received from fans. Their teammates were torn about which one of the pair deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy as parade MVP.

"No. 3," Matt Murray laughed. "I bet you every guy would probably say that. He was MVP of the parade for sure. 'Schultzy,' actually. Schultzy was good out there too."

"Probably Schultzy," Sidney Crosby grinned. "Guys had fun. Everyone made it so great and the turnout was incredible. To kind of finish it off at the stage there, it was a great setting."

Maatta and Schultz were a hit on social media, with a picture of Schultz chugging a beer on the road making the rounds. He said he didn't know of its existence until later that night.

"My buddies were texting me and I was seeing all the pictures I was Photoshopped in chugging the beer," Schultz laughed. "It's pretty funny. I don't know, I was having a good time and I'd do it again."

His fellow defenseman Brian Dumoulin couldn't be happier that Schultz was enjoying himself.

"I just love the guy to death," Dumoulin said. "He's one of my best friends on the team. He's a great guy. I'll look at all the pictures of him."

Meanwhile, a photo of Maatta napping on his balcony got the meme treatment. He let everyone know today that he didn't get sunburned and he didn't get caught in the rain - "I heard the thunder and had to get up," he said.

Those photos were the only ones Crosby has seen, and he said the rest of the team received them as well.

"I saw two pictures, actually. I saw one of Schultzy, it was a pretty good one, and then I saw Olli taking a nap. That was the only two I've seen. They were on a group text. I haven't seen a ton."

What's so special about the parade is the ability to share their win with everybody. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday they celebrated with just their family and friends. On Wednesday, they got to celebrate with the whole city.

"Just seeing how many people and the support group we have, the fans, it's unbelievable," Maatta said. "I think when you see how many of them show up, and just how excited they are about it, you see how big of a thing it is. It kind of makes you humble."

While those guys had the time of their lives, franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury experienced the perfect sendoff to what is likely the end of his time in Pittsburgh. There were so many No. 29 jerseys and signs in the crowd with sentiments like "We Love You Fleury! Thank You!" and "Merci, Marc-Andre!"

"That was pretty crazy," Fleury said. "So many signs, so many people. It was crazy. I think people chanted my name the whole way, so that was really emotional, but it was a good time."

He said he tried not to reflect a lot on his 12-plus years in this city as the truck he shared with his wife Veronique and oldest daughter Estelle traveled the route.

"I tried not to too much, because as you can see, I'm struggling with this," a choked-up Fleury admitted. "But I just tried to enjoy the moment, tried to remember the good times and this last parade."

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