After a busy morning of practice, the Penguins prospects teamed up with the Penguins Foundation for three afternoon youth hockey clinics on June 28.
In partnership with the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and Hockey Operations, the Foundation joined the prospects at Richland Park, North Park, and the Baierl YMCA with both park locations being a part of the Foundation’s Project Power Play program.
About 50 kids attended each location practicing alongside the prospects. The kids played games, participated in drills, asked questions in a Q&A session, and later had their new gold “Jr. Penguins Prospect” t-shirts autographed.
“You see little kids have fun and you have fun; you remember when you were that age,” said Joe Masonius, the Penguins sixth-round draft pick at the North Park dek hockey rink. “Kids are the future of hockey, so it’s awesome to have fun with them.”
“It’s great to be out here with the kids; you see the smiles they have when we come out here,” said Austin Lemieux of the Arizona State Sun Devils. “We’re teaching them some little things here and there, but it’s mostly for them to get out here, try to be kids, and just play hockey.”
“It’s really important, getting out into the community,” said Connor Roberts, Canadian-born OHL player. “They’re supporting you, so it’s really important to be a presence in the community.”
The clinic at the Baierl YMCA started with the prospects introducing themselves to the youth in attendance; stating their name, age, and place of birth. The Jr. Penguins Prospects eagerly listened with all hands raised when asked: “Who is excited to play hockey today?”
“All of these prospects have been working hard, so to get away from it and do something in the community is fun to see,” said Tom Kostopoulos, the Penguins Player Development Coach. “We’ve been pushing them pretty hard in development camp, but once they got into the gym and saw the kids’ faces, they all picked up and are having fun.”
The prospects also reflected on their early years and those they looked up to within the Penguins organization. “I lined up for hours to a get a Jaromir Jagr autograph,” said Andrew Gaus, a Pittsburgh native and now a member of the Penguins development camp, as he signed t-shirts for the kids.
“My favorite player is Evgeni Malkin,” said Sofia, a 10-year-old who was also part of the Penguins Foundation’s Learn to Play program. “I want to do as many drills as I can because they’re the most fun.”
“It’s great exposure for our kids to have these young adults come in and be role models,” said Nichole Lollo of the Baierl YMCA. “The kids will talk about this all summer long.”
The afternoon ended just like many Penguins games begin. The children let out an enthusiastic “Let’s Go Pens!” in thanks as the prospects departed for the end of this season’s development camp.