The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their commitment to youth hockey Friday as all local youth hockey players were able to attend the team’s practice at Mellon Arena.
While an estimated 2,500 fans were treated to some intense action on the ice, they got a look at the Penguins’ retro uniform system – featuring the powder blue, white and navy blue colors – to be used in the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in Buffalo. The Penguins wore their new game helmets, gloves and pant shells, while goaltender Dany Sabourin broke out some retro-looking pads, gloves and a new mask.
“It was great to get out there in front of the kids and practice. It was for them to be able to come watch us,” Penguins winger Georges Laraque said. “It was a pretty intense practice, too. When you work hard, you need to have fun, too. So, we were trying to have a good time with the fans.”
Former Penguins players Phil Bourque and Bob Errey joined FSN Pittsburgh play-by-play announcer Paul Steigerwald in providing commentary and explaining the drills at practice while head coach Michel Therrien and his staff ran the Penguins through a regular practice session.
“We just tried to add a little extra flavor to a practice. It can be kind of routine for the players because you practice so much during the season,” Bourque said. “There were a lot of kids there – I believe there were easily more than 2,000 people there. Between Bob, Steigy and me, we were just trying to let people maybe have an inside track as to the philosophy of what each drill was and what they were trying to accomplish. I remember as a kid growing up in Boston, I was lucky enough to go to a Bruins practice and watch them live like that was awesome. Not many people get to see what the players go through during a practice. I thought it was neat, not only for the players, but, more importantly, the young fans.”
The players fed off the energy of the crowd during their practice.
“I think it’s pretty cool for the kids to see the way we practice, or even for the parents to see what their kids go through in a practice if they get up to a higher level. It was pretty weird – I felt like we were doing an instructional video for kids with those guys talking in the background. There were a lot of people; it was nice to see,” Penguins winger Colby Armstrong said. “There were a lot of kids there; it’s fun for them. They’re banging on the glass and cheering the whole time. I think we had a pretty good practice, too. Maybe they pumped us up a bit. It was definitely different. We had the blue uniforms on, too, so that was cool for the kids.”