We have all heard the proverbial phrase, "All good things must come to an end." As the Pens season reached its climactic finale in April, so did my unforgettable experience as being a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Crew.
In 2010, I was introduced to the inaugural Ice Crew team while enjoying a Pens game at CONSOL Energy Center. During a stoppage of play, I noticed skaters swiftly moving across the ice surface, pumping up the crowd, and performing figure skating moves. Immediately, I fell in love with the idea of being part of a team that represents the Pens and has the unique opportunity to skate on NHL ice. Being a spectator at that time, I had no idea what else the Crew did, or what it was really like to be on the team. Little did I know that one year later, I would be on the ice instead of in the audience, and enjoying an experience like no other.
Having finished my first year on the Crew, I feel it is my call of duty and honor to give you “the scoop.” Here is a recap of four magnificent moments during my season as a rookie Ice Crew member:
Top Four Experiences as a First-Year Ice Crew Member (in no particular order):
4. Tryouts: During auditions in Summer 2011, I was eager to do what I’ve loved since I was a child – skate - and hopefully convey to the panel how badly I wanted to be a part of the organization. One of the best aspects of the tryout was being able to meet other ladies who share the same passion for the Pens (“suicides” – multiple sprints down the ice – was a close second). After two rounds of performing tricks, sprints, and other drills on the ice, working with the tools, and interviewing, I earned a coveted spot on this unique co-ed team, joining 14 other talented individuals. The drive home to share the good news consisted of celebrating with the most inspirational music I could find in my car (Lady Gaga “Edge of Glory”).
3. Pre-game Procedures: Preparing for the games at CONSOL can prove to be just as much fun as the games themselves. We begin by taking an elevator ride to the locker rooms (yes, all 15 of us try to fit in at once with our hockey bags – “a team that rides together, stays together”). Once in our dressing area, we put on our uniforms and start our team meeting where we learn which on or off-ice position we will perform that day. An hour before game time we walk the concourse and are able to do one of my favorite things – mingle with the fans! These moments before the games are some of the most gratifying interactions; I will never forget when fans excitedly told us “great job on the ice,” or when young children stated their desire to be on the Crew someday.
2. Charity and Promotional Events: Before being a part of the Ice Crew, I didn’t realize that the members were involved in events other than home games. One of the most rewarding aspects of my first year was volunteering. In particular, visiting the McGuire Memorial Home (see Daniel’s November Check-In post to read more) near the beginning of the season was especially rewarding; it was unbelievable how we could positively impact their day simply by coming in uniform and spending time with them.
In addition to the fulfilling charity work, we also had the opportunity to represent the organization during promotional events. February 16, 2012 was the Lemieux Foundation Red CARpet Charity Gala, benefiting Austin’s Playroom Project, where several of us assisted in communicating with the guests and running the charity auctions. We all enjoyed being able to work at this and other events throughout the year including the CONSOL Energy Center Blood Drive, Wheeling Nailers game, and the Season Ticket Holder Open Skate.
1. TV Timeouts: More thrilling than I ever could have imagined is skating on NHL ice. It is exhilarating to know that every shift on the ice is fast-paced and unique. One of my favorite areas to clean was by the benches; I never knew when I would have to quickly stop while a player jumped over the boards or when I would need to maneuver my snowplow around sticks and water bottles. The 2-minute or less shift on the ice always seemed to be action-packed, and the unpredictable nature of each time on the ice was a challenge I always looked forward to completing.
Although every time on the ice was memorable, I could not wipe the smile off of my face when we stepped onto the ice during the second period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I have never heard the audience so loud, all whirling their rally towels in support of their hometown team.
After the 2011-2012 Ice Crew was announced last August, the veteran members had warmly extended the words, "Welcome to family," and I am glad to say at the end of the season, I have made 14 friends. I look forward to creating more scrapbook moments with the group!
Pumped and Eager for Next Season,
*Coming Attractions: NHL Draft and Ice Crew Banquet!