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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins 2005-2006 Training Camp

Imagine working for 14 hours, six days a week with your phone ringing off the hook.

Now you know what it’s like to work in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ ticket sales department.

While most people would cringe at the high demands of the job, the Penguins’ 20-member staff wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Penguins have not seen a ticket-selling frenzy like this in years. Mario Lemieux’s return from retirement in December, 2000 was close, but that came in mid-season, when a large amount of ticket inventory had already been sold. Penguins tickets are among the the hottest in all of sports and the team has already sold more seats this year than during the last season in 2003-04.

It’s good news for the franchise and the NHL, which ended a 310-day work stoppage on July 22 with the ratification of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Board of Governors.

“It’s been unbelievably exciting,” said Dave Soltesz, the Penguins vice president of sales and marketing. “ We’ve never had a frenzy for season tickets like this. The fans are really energized, and they can’t wait for the season to start. Everything changed for us on July 22.”

That’s because the NHL held the lottery to determine draft position on the same day. When commissioner Gary Bettman opened the envelope revealing the Penguins logo with the No. 1 pick, jubilation broke out in the franchise’s corporate offices as employees watched the franchise get the right to draft super-prospect Sidney Crosby. After some celebration, reality set in – and the phones started ringing.

A small stream of loyal season ticket holders inquired about plans once it was revealed a labor agreement was imminent in the week leading up to the official signing. However, winning the draft caused a deluge among Penguins fans craving tickets in full-season and 20-game plans.

“Nothing could have prepared us for that,” Soltesz said.

Ticket sales continued to soar throughout August. The demand only intensified as the free-agent signings of Sergei Gonchar (Aug. 3), Ziggy Palffy (Aug. 8) and John LeClair (Aug. 15), along with the acquisition of Jocelyn Thibault (Aug. 10) caused a spike in sales, with LeClair’s addition showing the biggest jump by a small margin.

Plenty of seats remain, though, and fans will get a chance to buy ticket plans during the team’s training camp at Mellon Arena on Sept. 14. The Penguins will set up some of their ticketing department on-site in Mellon Arena Sept. 14-16 to help assist fans wishing to purchase tickets. In addition, available seats will be marked to allow fans to gauge sightlines and locations.

Single-game tickets will go on sale on Saturday.

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