Development camp is a chance for the Penguins prospects to not only learn what it means to represent the organization, but also experience the city they’ll hopefully play in someday.
And today, on a gorgeous July afternoon, they got an incredible view of just how beautiful Pittsburgh is during their team-bonding activity – which was rowing on one of its three rivers (the Allegheny). This was the first time the team has done this, as in years past they’ve either gone bowling or played paintball.
After we all arrived at the Lambert Boathouse on Washington’s Landing, we went into a huge room filled from front to back with single rowing machines. Everyone going out on the water (the injured players did not for obvious reasons) was required to climb onto one and get familiarized with the movements they would be executing once they got into the boats.
They used the largest common boats, called "sweep oar eights." They're designed for eight rowers who each have just one oar, used with both hands. The prospects filled up four boats while members of hockey ops took a fifth.
We were kind of bummed about that, because we were hoping assistant general managers Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin would be coxswains – the oarless crew members who are in charge of a boat, particularly its navigation and steering. We can only imagine how they would have barked orders to the prospects. It would have been incredible. But they had people more qualified for the job in those spots, which was probably smart.
Each boat had a launch accompanying it, so myself, Sam Kasan and our manager of communications Jason Seidling boarded one named the Batmobile (appropriate, seeing as we were sailing into Gotham) and followed the last group that left the dock.
Closest to the stern, in seats 1 and 2, were Dominik Simon and Jean-Sebastien Dea. Tristan Jarry and Ryan Segalla were next to them. At the other end of the boat, which is called the bow, Troy Josephs was in the eighth seat while Matia Marcantuoni was right behind him.
Megan Kuehn, the equipment and event coordinator for the Association, drove our launch and was gracious enough to let the three of us join her. We were also accompanied by Anna Farnan, a student at Quaker Valley High who rows for the junior team at the Three Rivers Rowing Association and also spends 6-11 hours volunteering each day in the summer.
She was fantastic at explaining the technical terms to us novices. The one I remember because I saw it the most was “catching a crab,” which is when a blade gets caught under water. From what I saw, Segalla and Jake Kulevich seemed to be the most guilty of this.
Overall, we were out on the water for about an hour or two (my phone died, so I lost track of time!), with Megan using a megaphone to give the prospects instructions and guidance. They were incredibly complicated – as Megan told us, rowing is such a physically and mentally demanding sport.
I thought rowing was as simple as just sticking your oars in the water in unison, but it's so much more than that. At certain points, Josephs and Marcantuoni would just keep their oars in the water to steer while the middle four rowed; sometimes, just the back six would row; and other times, all eight would be going. It was hard keeping it all straight.
And to top it off, Megan told us that they packed eight weeks(!) worth of lessons into this one day, so we have to give credit to the guys for picking it up the way that they did. There were points where they were just flying through the water in total sync. Though granted, they are all elite athletes, so it shouldn’t surprise us too much.
One funny moment came when Jarry almost got whacked when Segalla caught a crab and lost control of his oar for a moment.
"I think just all eight of us getting in sync or even the six of us was hard," Jarry said. "It's tough when you're not all in sync. The one paddle comes back and you have to watch out (laughs). I think we almost flipped it a couple times and I'm sure all of us are wet."
However, from what we saw, overall the guys looked like they had a lot of fun. They were laughing and smiling and we got the occasional thumbs up and waves from the guys.
“It was a great experience,” Jarry said. “It’s always fun to challenge ourselves and it’s definitely something we’ll come back to do again.”
I know we had a blast on the launch observing and gathering content for social media, particularly Periscope – an app that allows you to live stream from your phone. And occasionally, we’d try to cheer our boat on and give the guys somewhat of a morale boost as we were the stragglers – it took us way longer to get back than anyone else, who all had head starts on us already, because of boat traffic out on the river. But we made it back eventually. Here's a photo of our boat...
Great work, boys.