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FANTASY CAMP OFFERS UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Thursday, 12.22.2005 / 12:00 AM / Pittsburgh Penguins
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FANTASY CAMP OFFERS UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Looking for a unique holiday gift? Treat yourself or someone you know to a couple unforgettable days with the Pittsburgh Penguins at their 4th Annual Adult Hockey Camp.

The camp, scheduled Feb. 3-4, will feature Hockey Hall of Famers Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier, with two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Bourque, as well as former Pens Ken Wregget, Dennis Owchar, Warren Young, Francois Leroux and Mark Kachowski. Eddie Johnston, Jack Riley, Duane Rupp and Alain Lemieux will serve as bench coaches throughout the camp.

“It’s an unbelievable time,” said Bourque, who serves as the Penguins’ radio color commentator. “I think there are a lot of people who look at the fantasy camp and say, ‘Oh, I’d like to do that. That’d be fun,’ but they never follow through on it. They are really missing out.”

The camp is open to adult hockey players, both male and female, ages 25 and older, with some on-ice experience – a minimum of at least one full adult learn-to-play hockey clinic, plus a season in an adult C or D league is required. Participants must bring full equipment, including a helmet.

The cost to participate is $799, but campers may reserve their spot now with just a $100 deposit.

“It is a great thing to do for yourself, but we’ve seen a lot of wives get it for their husbands for Christmas,” said Bourque, a veteran of the camp. “There even have been a couple of wives who bought it for their husband and themselves. They were able to play hockey, too, so we’ve had husbands and wives come out and compete together, which is pretty neat.

“I think it’s reasonably priced. You really come away feeling like you got your money’s worth.”

Certainly, many fans would consider skating alongside and against former Penguins to be a priceless experience – not just for two days of fun, but to relive and create unforgettable memories.

“A lot of the people who come to the fantasy camp are people who are obviously fans right now, but maybe became Penguins fans in the early 1990s during the [Stanley] Cup championship years [in 1991 and ’92]. They still hang on to [those memories] and embrace them – for some people, that’s when they met their first wife or had their first child, so it holds a special place in their heart,” Bourque said. “For me, it’s great just to be on the ice with my old teammates, too. That’s a real thrill.”

The camp also provides a unique chance to bring Penguins fans together from various locations.

“It’s really cool to see them come to Pittsburgh because some of them don’t live here. They come from other states and it’s all about reminiscing about great times,” Bourque said. “To actually strap on the skates, go out there and have a practice and play games, go in the corner and muck and grind – as much of a thrill as it is for them, it’s kind of a neat little thrill for me, too.”

The camp starts on Friday, Feb. 3, with a series of on-ice drills in the morning. The participants will then attend a Pittsburgh Penguins practice. After that, campers are divided into four teams – with two former Penguins on each team – to participate in a series of round-robin tournament games.

“Everybody is competitive. Like most things, it starts off with everyone having a good time and laughing and giggling. Once the tournament starts rolling along and you might be able to get into the final game, it does get pretty serious,” Bourque said. “Late in games, you’ll see tied scores or one-goal games and you see players taking it up a notch and getting a little more physical.

“It’s all in great fun and it’s great to get the competitive juices flowing again.”

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the campers will attend the Penguins’ game at Mellon Arena against the Islanders at 2 p.m. Following the contest, the camp tournament semifinal, consolation and championship games will be played on Mellon Arena ice.

“That’s phenomenal. That’s the best part – getting on the Mellon Arena ice,” Bourque said. “That’s another thrill for me. I don’t get to go out there and skate hardly at all. It brings back a lot of memories for me. For a lot of people who just sat in the stands and watched from afar, it’s a big thrill for them.

“It’s great to watch them the first time they get out there, they just kind of look around and point out where their seats are or point to where their seats were when they watched some of the memorable games played here.”

For more information, please call Mark Shuttleworth, the Penguins’ director of amateur hockey, at 412-642-1329. Or, log on to the fantasy camp Web page www.pittsburghpenguins.com/community/adult.php  to download a registration form.

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