It’s well known to students in Pittsburgh that when they line up outside of CONSOL Energy Center to purchase discounted Student Rush tickets, the Pens players sometimes take the chance to pass out pizzas.
But Wednesday’s Student Rush felt even more festive than usual, as Marc-Andre Fleury challenged students prior to Wednesday to don the most outlandish costumes they could find, with him handpicking the recipients of his “Flower’s Front Row Seats” to the Penguins’ matchup with the Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. that evening.
Fleury purchased four front-row seats in section 118 to be given away before each home game this season. Every recipient this season has been a well deserving Pens fan, but Wednesday’s winners made an extra impact while dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“I thought it would be a little funny to have people dress up to have them get my tickets,” Fleury laughed. “Some people dressed up. They look good.”
Even the fans who wore worthy costumes and were not picked were left in high spirits. Gino Catone, a freshman pharmacy major at Duquesne University, dressed as Tinky Winky, the purple teletubby, and wasn’t chosen, but said he was just excited to see the players up close.
“I mean I was a teletubby, but it wasn’t like they (the winners) had bad costumes,” Catone laughed. “For (the players) to come out here, I don’t even know how to say it. It was personal, I guess. You don’t get to see star hockey players every day of the week.”
While Fleury handpicked who would receive his tickets, players Matt Cooke, Brandon Sutter, Pascal Dupuis, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland and coach Dan Bylsma surprised the fans with pizzas.
The players, who received a rousing ovation as they stepped outside, went the extra mile by stopping to sign autographs and take pictures. Sutter, a first-time Student Rush pizza deliveryman, took a picture with every fan who asked and signed a few autographs, only turning down signing an inflatable Stanley Cup, saying “I have to win one first.”
“It’s a chance to come out and see some people before a game,” Sutter said. “That’s something you usually don’t get to do and we had the chance to give out some pizzas too, so hopefully everyone got a smile on their face and they’re having fun.”
The fans were indeed left smiling as they got to meet some of their favorite players and received dinner for good measure.
“It was definitely a new experience,” Tim Frank, a junior at Gateway High School, said. “There’s not too many organizations that do it like this.”
Bylsma handed a pizza to Jacob Cassidy, a student at Woodland Hills High School, and his friends.
“I thought this was pretty cool,” Cassidy said. “I’ve been here before for this and it’s still just very cool.”
The Penguins have posted an impressive 16-5-0 record at home this season, which Bylsma said is due in large part to fans like those who waited outside on Wednesday.
“The building’s been awesome,” Bylsma said. “In that 15-game stretch, it was absolutely incredible how the fans were. The Washington game, the Islander game, the Montreal game were awesome. That’s our home building, that’s our home fans and it’s been great.”