Last week the NHL got its act together, reached an agreement, and started season games. Really exciting news. What was even more exciting was Wednesday night the Penguins held a Pens vs. Pens scrimmage and opened it up for free to the public. FREE. Starving-for-hockey Pittsburgh fans showed up in droves, and since we’ve committed to having more date nights and the boyfriend loves hockey, we were two of them.
Free parking opened at 5. Doors opened at 6. The game started at 7. We finally found a sitter, battled traffic, and arrived around 6:30. We couldn’t find the lot with free parking, and imagined it would be full by that point anyways. But we did find a garage right across from the Consol Energy Center. For $6. Not bad at all. Our timing was perfect. We didn’t have to wait in a long line. A LOT of the seats were taken. But because they were, the only seats they had left were the ones that are typically reserved. So we got REALLY NICE seats. We got there too early for them to have resorted to opening up the luxury boxes, but we had a TV screen at our fingertips and cushy, rolling chairs. If we had showed up much later, we would have been turned away. The place was filled past capacity.
The game was fun. I learned a lot about hockey. I volunteered to spend a large part of the second period in a never-ending concession line as I’m not the Penguins fanatic. But by being there I can understand why Pittsburghers love their hockey. There are people drinking at the games, but it’s not the raucous, almost dangerous atmosphere you can sometimes run into at a Steelers game. Everyone’s pretty good natured. (At least when the Penguins are playing the Penguins. I’m sure the dynamics are slightly different when you actually have a rival.) But there’s also not the ever-present fear of depressive loss that you run into at Pirates games. Those hockey players are good at what they do, and even if I don’t completely understand what they do, that made it fun to watch.
So the scrimmage was a total win for us on a personal level. But I also think it was a total win for the Penguins organization. Here’s why:
- Pittsburgh’s been losing about $2 million for every home game we haven’t played. It’s put a hurting on the local economy. Even though the boyfriend assures me that our particular organization had nothing to do with the hold up, opening a free game to the public and stimulating businesses in the area surrounding the arena (at the least) had to have eased any ill-feelings anyone may have had.
- Remember that concession line I stood in for second period? Those people were spending money. While only a small portion of that goes to the organization, a small portion of a lot of money is a lot of money. Remember, the arena was filled beyond its intended capacity of 18,000. That’s a lot of consumers spending money on over-priced food and beer.
- It got people excited. As if yinzers needed this to get excited about the Pens playing again. But it got people like me excited. And I’m not even a hockey fan. Though through this process, I may soon be a convert.
- The event was GREAT. Sometimes places will put on free events and you end up getting what you paid for. A kind of okay experience. It’s free, so you feel bad for saying it sucked. But it did. Not so with the scrimmage. People were excited. There was great energy. The coach kept doing things to keep the good feelings going like mandating a shoot-out. The players actually played decently hard against each other. They were giving away free tickets and gift cards and t-shirts just like a normal game (or so I understand it to be.) If there were any problems getting hockey tickets to sell in the golden triangle before (there weren’t,) then this event surely would have alleviated them.