I had the opportunity to attend the Pittsburgh Penguins Town Hall Meeting as a season ticket holder. This was my second year in attendance and the Penguins third such meeting.
From the moment we entered, there was a feeling of electricity flowing through the fans. Many were wearing the jerseys of their favorite players. They were packed into the seating on the floor as others sat in the stands as close to the stage as possible. While we waited for the meeting to start, two large video screens projected an image of the Penguins logo alternating with “Thank you Season Ticket Holders”.
A round of applause and cheers went up as Paul Steigerwald, FSN Pittsburgh’s Penguin broadcaster, took the stage and presented the first of three speakers for the evening. We heard from CEO Ken Sawyer, President David Morehouse and GM Ray Shero. Ken Sawyer started by thanking the fans for their tremendous support and moved on to talk about the wonderful new arena that is currently under construction just across the street from Mellon Arena. A slide show was presented showing drawings of what the arena is going to look like and Mr. Sawyer talked in detail about some of the amenities that will go into this new facility.
Mr. Morehouse then reviewed the past season noting several accomplishments made by the team and its fans. Rousing applause followed such statements as:
- This was the first time in franchise history that every game sold out, including selling out the suites
- The creation of a season ticket waiting list that currently has over 2,000 people waiting to fill 5,000 seats.
- He also chronicled the tremendous playoff run and the amazing fan support throughout the year.
Ray Shero was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation. The fans here truly appreciate his hard work and dedication to this team and the fans. Not that we needed to be reminded, but he reviewed the fact that he was able to make some good, long term deals with key players such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik and Evgeni Malkin. He also stressed that even though a few players were lost to other teams, they believe that the new players that were brought in will help our core players along and the Pens will continue to have success.
The most interesting thing I thought that Mr. Shero said was regarding Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan. Last year, at the start of free agency, Mr. Shero received a call from Sykora’s agent inquiring if the Pens had any interest in signing him because he had stressed a desire to sign with the Penguins. And of course, Sykora is now an important part of the Penguins team. This year, Satan’s agent (which I believe is the same as Sykora’s) called Mr. Shero again this year to express Satan’s desire to be a Penguin if there was interest and of course, he signed with the Pens over the summer break as well. As a fan, it is encouraging to know that other players are out there that want to be a part of this awesome young team.
Lastly, six of our core players were brought onto the stage for a question and answer session. Before they could make it out of the runway onto the stage, the fans were on their feet shouting “Let’s Go Pens”! It was awesome to be a part of!
The players that were with us that evening were Sidney Crosby, Max Talbot, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney, Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik. Fans were asked to submit questions ahead of time for the players and a handful were selected to ask the players.
The first question asked the players to recount their favorite moment of the playoffs. Brooks Orpik answered that beating the Flyers was his favorite moment which generated a boisterous cheer from the crowd. Evgeni Malkin was next and since there were no other Russian speaking players on stage, he had to answer his questions in English. We could tell he was nervous, but he did very well as he answered that his favorite moment was Sykora’s goal in overtime of Game 5 to bring the Cup Final series back to Pittsburgh. For his efforts, the fans cheered loudly and chanted “Geno, Geno”. Fleury made everyone laugh when he said his favorite moment was when he fell down entering the ice in Detroit for the first Cup Final game. Max Talbot was quick to point out that was his favorite moment too, while Sidney Crosby said his favorite moment was when Max scored the tying goal to force overtime in the dying seconds of Game 5.
The funniest moments of the evening were saved for Max Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury. If you haven’t seen Max lately, he’s cut off all his hair so his hair is really short as opposed to his long locks he was sporting in the playoffs. A female fan submitted a question to Max about his hair. She basically said in her question “Even though you are still hot, why did you cut your hair?” An embarrassed Talbot answered first by thanking her for the compliment, then joked about wanting her phone number. But Max’s embarrassment wasn’t over there. Paul Steigerwald then made a remark about Max trying on a suit coat in the locker room the day before and how he was parading about the room as if he were a model. He then asked Max if he would show the audience just what he was doing. The crowd was buzzing, clapping and cheering so Max had no choice but to get up and do his runway show for us. As we watched him strut his stuff, the entire crowd was laughing and applauding as Max made one last turn around, lifted the edge of his jersey in the back and struck a pose. Too funny!
Before the evening concluded, Paul Steigerwald had one last question for Max and Fleury. If you have ever seen a Pens game (and some of you may not if you don’t have the Center Ice package), before games, Talbot and Fleury have a little ritual they like to do and Paul Steigerwald wanted to know what it was all about. Basically, before they enter the ice, Talbot and Fleury will have a mini boxing match. Fleury described it as “it being stupid really”, but said it started after he got back from his injury and Max tapped him on his goalie pads once. Then the next time it was twice, then the whole boxing thing started. Talbot added to it by saying they say stupid things in French to each other while they are boxing and if he thinks Fleury is sleeping he’ll give him an extra punch.
As the players exited the stage, Talbot still had the mic and thanked the fans for coming out and their support as the cheers and applause rained down on them. It was great to hear about our new arena, the teams’ accomplishments and the bright future ahead.
The players on this team and the fans have a special relationship - one that most teams and their fans don’t have. The fans have embraced and support this team like no other and the players seem to have done the same with the fans. We can’t wait for another season to begin!
Thanks for sharing this great story, Jen!!
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