Three-year-olds Austin, Christian and Abby huddled together inside the goal at Mellon Arena. Wearing Penguins jersey on their backs and smiles on their faces, they sat together as Austin's father, Ryan Mancini, snapped photos of them. The goal was decked out with garland and lights along the posts, red bows in the top corners and a giant wreathe hanging from the center.
Mancini was one of the many season ticket holders that took part in the second annual holiday photo opportunity at Mellon Arena. Approximately 200 season ticket holders, not counting their accompanied families and guests, were permitted to take special holiday pictures at various stations on the ice, including inside the Penguins goal.
“This is the second year we’ve done it,” said Mancini, who was sporting a home Penguins jersey with No. 79 and his own name on the back. “I thought it would be a great opportunity as a family. I think it’s a great experience, and great that the Penguins do that for season ticket holders.”
The event was held on Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. Nine stations were set up for photo opportunities: both goals, both benches, both penalty boxes, in front of two zambonis and with Iceburgh.
“It’s awesome that they open the place up for everyone to come to like this,” said Clint Gardner, a fourth-year season ticket holder. He attended the event with his wife, Chris, and three children, Zach, 7, Silas, 6, and Jake, 4.
“The zambonis are new this year,” Gardner said. “That was pretty cool. We liked the penalty box too.”
Both of Pittsburgh’s zambonis were wrapped in red ribbons with big wreathes on the corners. The benches and penalty boxes were decorated with garland along the top edge with ornaments and red stockings hanging from it.
In the concourse, Iceburgh sat in a big chair next to a fully decorated Christmas tree outside of the East Igloo Club. He greeted fans as they posed for pictures with him. Liam Wiseman, 2-years-old, was particularly excited to see him. He shook Iceburgh’s hand and grinned from ear-to-ear.
Liam posed with his brother Shane, 10, and sisters Trinity, 8, and CC, 4, as his father, Brian, and mother, Mary, took pictures.
“We plan on coming here every year to see how the kids grow in front of the net and zamboni,” Mary said.
“Our Christmas cards we sent out last year were the pictures from here,” said Brian, who still had the photo from last year in his phone.
Fans that would like to turn their photos into Holiday cards can do so by logging on to www.pittsburghpenguins.com/snapshots
and following the instructions.
Penguins’ representatives were present at each photo station to take pictures to make sure all the visiting parties could be involved. The attendees were treated with various Holiday songs like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
The jumbotron pictured live shots of the event. At one point it captured a shot of the Wright family posing in the penalty box with their own hockey sticks.
“My wife thought it would be a good idea to do that,” Joe Wright said of posing with the sticks. “(The penalty box is) a lot smaller than we thought it was. It’s cool to look up at the seats when you’re down there.”
Joe, his wife, Tammy, and sons Chad, 10, and Garret, 13, also took a picture of the family inside a goal.
“All four us got in the goal,” said Chad, who currently plays hockey at Southpointe. Chad was especially thrilled about being on the ice.
“They had a great time,” said Joe. “They really enjoyed it. It’s great for them.”
The Mancini group, tired from their many photos, relaxed in the Mellon Arena seats and enjoyed some popcorn together. It was a special treat for Mancini and his son, Austin.
“He’s getting into hockey,” Mancini said. “Last year, he loved it so much and he was only 2 (years old). Austin really enjoyed it and the (other children) did too. You could tell on their faces.”