The Penguins players put on their jerseys Monday afternoon, but not to hit the ice. Instead the group traveled around the Pittsburgh area delivering a special package to season ticket holders.
Fourteen players visited season ticket holders at their homes to hand them their 2011-12 season ticket package. Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
, Marc-Andre Fleury
, Kris Letang
, Brooks Orpik
, Tyler Kennedy
, Jordan Staal
, Chris Kunitz
, Matt Cooke
, Pascal Dupuis
, Zbynek Michalek
, Paul Martin
and James Neal
took part in the fifth annual season ticket delivery.
“It is really exciting. I appreciate the fact that the Penguins allow season ticket holders to have this opportunity to meet the players,” Susan Vandewater said. “It’s not like meeting them at the rink. They’re coming to our house.”
The Vandewater family – Susan, husband Harry, son Brooks and two of friends – were visited by Staal. The 6-foot-4 center signed autographs, ate some table fruits and posed for photos.
The family wanted to pose for photos in the yard, but there was too much mud. Seeking a solution Susan asked Staal: “Did you bring any sod with you?”
Susan, a third grade school teacher at Ben Franklin Elementary in Bethel Park, took a picture wearing her autographed No. 11 jersey. She said, “When they asked me what shirt I wanted, I said it’s got to be Jordan.”
Staal didn’t leave the Vandewater home empty handed. Susan made sure to fill a container with lady locks for him. Staal had only one request: “Don’t fill it with all of them, because I will eat them all.”
“It’s so exciting. We’re such big hockey fans,” Susan said. “To have someone like Jordan Staal
, who we recognize and love and is one of the key players on the team, it’s such a big thrill for us to have him in our home.”
“There’s no better feeling than giving back to the season ticket holders,” Staal said. “They’re big fans and a big part of those sold out crowds. It’s always fun as a player to play in front of that. It’s always fun to give back, and they’re all great people.“
Crosby was also lucky enough to leave a house with some cookies. Although he had a warning for the media: “Let’s keep that between us.”
Crosby visited the Henzier family in Ben Avon. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and chatted with the family about the team.
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“It was tremendous, what a surprise. I knew a Penguin was coming, but we didn’t know who. When we saw Sid at the door, it was really, really great,” Gary Henzier said. “Sid was gracious. He signed everything we had for him. I hope he gets back soon.”
After, Crosby visited Sewickley’s Dennis Pauley, a season-ticket holder since the 1970-71 season, a 41-year reign. Dennis, who bought his first season ticket package after high school, was delighted to have the Penguins captain in his home.
“It’s amazing. When it was him I was like, ‘wow, this actually happens.’ I am flabbergasted,” said Dennis, who initial thought the whole plan was a prank after Penguins officials called to inform him of the delivery.
“I called (a ticket rep) on Thursday, ‘This is Dennis.’ She said you don’t believe it do you? I said I just wanted to make sure.”
“Every night thousands of people watch our games, but we don’t always get to meet them personally,” Crosby said. “I think to meet them face to face, there are different stories. You sometimes meet season ticket holders for 25, 30 years. It’s fun to meet them and hear their stories. I think getting to know them and meet them is the nicest part.”
Sara Harper skipped class at Pitt-Johnstown to receive her tickets. When Russian star Evgeni Malkin
knocked on the door, she was thrilled: “My friends are going to hate me.”
Sara’s grandmother, Alice Slagle, said her granddaughter “lived and breathed hockey for forever.” And she added that Sara “got a job at 16 busing tables and saved all her money to buy these tickets.”
At the next house stop, Tom White asked Malkin, “How’s Sid?”
Malkin replied: “He’s good. He’s the best … after me.”
Outside the home of Bennett Burstin in Carnegie, a number of neighborhood children had gathered outside the home to peak at the Bennett’s special visitor. It was the final house visit of the day for Staal, but he still took some extra time to walk over and greet the gathering, posing for pictures and talking to the kids. He even held 2-year-old Sean for a photo as the youngster sucked on his pacifier.
“It’s always cool. Sometimes you don’t really know how much it means to them,” Staal said. “You get that feeling coming to the door. They’re excited. It makes for a fun day. It’s always a good time.”Kaitlin Zurawsky contributed to this report