Pen­guins warm fans’ hearts off ice

Crosby among play­ers de­liv­er­ing sea­son tick­ets

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Kevin Allen @ByKev­inAllen USA TO­DAY Sports

GIBSONIA, PA. It was like a Pub­lish­ers Clear­ing House sweep­stakes com­mer­cial when Pitts­burgh Pen­guins sea­son tick­etholder Kristo­pher Proc­tor opened his front door to see Sid­ney Crosby stand­ing there Wed­nes­day.

What es­caped from his mouth was a yelp be­fit­ting some­one who felt as if he had won the grand prize.

“My sons will be talk­ing about this 20 years from now,” Proc­tor said.

It’s an an­nual tra­di­tion for the Pen­guins to send out play­ers through­out the met­ro­pol­i­tan area to de­liver tick­ets to 50 sea­son tick­ethold­ers. The se­lected win­ners, cho­sen ran­domly, are in­formed a player is com­ing, but the iden­tity isn’t re­vealed un­til he shows up.

To have Crosby visit his home two days be­fore the Pen­guins start train­ing camp in prepa­ra­tion for their quest to win a third con­sec­u­tive Stan­ley Cup seemed un­real to Proc­tor.

“(My kids) were pretty shocked. I know I didn’t be­lieve it,” Proc­tor said. “To have any player from the team would have been awe­some. The fact that it is the best player in the world play­ing in the drive­way with my kids — noth­ing is go­ing (to top) that.”

Crosby signed mul­ti­ple jer­seys, hugged a grandma, posed for count­less pho­tos and then played ball hockey with Proc­tor’s sons Adam, 9, and Josh, 4.

“This is re­ally a nice thing that the team does be­cause you get to meet the peo­ple,” Crosby said. “When you play, it’s just a mass of peo­ple but you don’t meet any­one one-on-one.”

In Crosby’s sec­ond stop, he met Chris McLaugh­lin, who has had sea­son tick­ets for 25 years. Crosby saw that McLaugh­lin had a photo of him­self with the Stan­ley Cup, so he lis­tened in­tently to McLaugh­lin tell about how he got up close and per­sonal with the Cup in 1992 when the Pen­guins won. McLaugh­lin knew for­mer Pen­guins de­fense­man Jim Paek.

McLaugh­lin’s son, Quin, now a col­lege stu­dent, showed him his for­mer room, dec­o­rated in ful­lon Pen­guins’ mo­tif.

“There’s just great sports fans here,” Crosby said. “I knew that from Day 1 when I showed up and the air­port was packed with peo­ple.”

Crosby was slightly late for his first de­liv­ery, but the Proc­tors likely will for­give him be­cause his tar­di­ness was due to do­ing ex­tra skat­ing sprints with a few team­mates at the Pen­guins prac­tice fa­cil­ity, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Com­plex, af­ter an in­for­mal prac­tice con­cluded.

The Pen­guins are try­ing to be­come the first NHL team in more than 30 years to win three Cups in a row.

Crosby and the Pen­guins had a short sum­mer, and he won’t sell his train­ing short.

“(Win­ning three in a row) is a lot of mo­ti­va­tion,” Crosby said. “That’s the way we have to look at it.”

Crosby said he en­joys be­ing a de­liv­ery­man be­cause it is a sign that the sea­son is just around the cor­ner.

His fa­vorite de­liv­ery mo­ment came years ago when a woman told Crosby the Pen­guins were go­ing to win the Cup. “She said, ‘I have a good feel­ing about this year,’ ” Crosby re­called, not­ing that was in 2009, when he won his first Stan­ley Cup.

JIMMY HASCUP, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Sid­ney Crosby per­son­ally de­liv­ered Pen­guins sea­son tick­ets to the Proc­tor fam­ily on Wed­nes­day.

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