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Thursday July 24 2014
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Fans Turnout to See Pens Scrimmage

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Mid-summer hockey a hit with Pens fans

On a muggy July afternoon in Pittsburgh, Penguins’ fans were treated to an ice-cold refreshment they had been craving since mid-April. Thousands of fans turned out to see the scrimmage that punctuated the Penguins’ week-long development camp, which featured defensemen Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington, Olli Maata and Derrick Pouliot, along with forwards Beau Bennett, Teddy Blueger and Matia Marcantuoni, among others. Admission to the game was free.


“I couldn’t believe the traffic out front trying to get into the parking lot,” Tom Fitzgerald said. “I think (the prospects) were surprised at the number of fans. I think it’s fantastic that the fans come out like that to watch what is in the cupboard and what’s coming down the road here.”


Campers may have been surprised, maybe even intimidated, but they still thrived with an audience.


“It was a fun atmosphere to plan in,” Blueger said. “To see that many people come out and watch and support us – it was fun.”


Despres, who was on the winning White Team and has played in Pittsburgh during the regular season, also enjoyed the crowd.


“They were great,” he said. “They were very loud…some of the best fans in the league, for sure.”


The game was split up into two 25-minute halves, separated by a shootout, so fans got to see future NHL stars’ talents on full display.


Morrow, who received thunderous applause for his shootout goal, enjoyed the support, especially since the prospects aren’t yet, and may never be, actual Penguins.


“We’re not the Pittsburgh Penguins,” he said. “We may be in the future, but even to just have that many fans come out just for prospects…it really makes you appreciate the places you play in.”


Harrington, participating in his second development camp, was still impressed with the turnout.


“Last year I was surprised,” he said. “I had no idea that there were going to be so many people, and I think there were even more this year. It’s really nice to see.”

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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