Crosby Skates with "Little Penguins"
Monday, 03.12.2012 / 10:00 AM ET / Features
By Sam Kasan
Youngster Sam Gorgonio loves hockey and hopes one day to be as good as his hero, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
On Saturday afternoon, little Sam had the opportunity of a lifetime skating with his idol for an hour at Iceoplex at Southpointe.
Sam, wearing his No. 87 jersey, said the experience was “super” and something he’ll never forget. The feeling was mutual.
Crosby spent over an hour on the ice with the group of children, who are participating in the Sidney Crosby Little Penguins ‘Learn to Play Hockey’ program. The program, which is in its fourth season, provides boys and girls ages 4-7 with FREE head-to-toe hockey equipment, including skates, as well as weekly lessons to teach them the sport.
A combined effort between Crosby, the Penguins organization, Reebok and Dick’s Sporting Goods provided 1,000 kids with free gear.
“There are a lot of kids that are interested in playing, but it’s an expensive sport,” Crosby said. “I’m so happy that Reebok and Dick’s could help out with it. The Penguins have helped out tremendously. It’s just a chance for kids to play hockey and get some equipment.”
Each child received Reebok SC87 Crosby-endorsed equipment, skates, stick, helmet, gloves, pants, pads, equipment bag and an official “Little Penguins” jersey.
With the high price of hockey equipment these days, parents are ecstatic about the program and the way Crosby, the Penguins, Reebok and Dick’s have given their children an opportunity to play and learn the sport.
“It’s unreal,” Jon Gasbarrini said. “To afford that equipment is one thing, yet we’re giving the guidance and coaching along the way. It speaks volumes for what this organization is for the kids and for us as parents.”
“We’re thrilled,” Sam’s father Joe Gorgonio said. “(Sam) wants to be a little Penguin and hopefully one day be as good as Sidney. They (provide the) whole uniform, helmet, shirt, shoulder pads, pants, elbow pads, knee pads, skates, everything.”
Children participating in the program receive weekly lessons at 25 participating rinks, including four special programs for girls only. Volunteers at each venue provide on-ice teaching.
“The volunteers have been great,” Crosby said. “They spent a lot of time helping these kids learn the game. I think everyone has enjoyed it. We’re happy to give kids a chance to play a great game that we all love.”
And for the lucky skaters at Southpointe on Saturday, the hockey lessons were taught by Crosby himself.
“It was thrilling, very exciting,” Joe Gorgonio said. “I think it’s as exciting for the parents as much as the kids.”
“It was unbelievable,” Gasbarrini said. “I can’t say the amount of appreciation, respect and praise for him. Having my son on the ice with him at the same time, he spent over an hour skating with the kids, it’s unbelievable.”
Crosby understands how exciting it is for young hockey players to skate with someone like himself.
“I think everyone has role models. I had a lot,” he said. “I had some great coaches. That’s a big part of it. All these coaches and volunteers are here today, they make a big difference. It’s nice that they volunteer their time to help out all the kids.”
The registration was held in early November and was received on a first-come, first-serve basis. It sold out quickly.
“This is a great opportunity for them. A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to come out at such a young age because hockey is such an expensive sport,” hockey director at Iceoplex Rich Hopf said. “Dick’s, Reebok, Sidney and the Penguins organization provide them with the equipment from head to toe so that they can have an opportunity to give the sport a chance.
“Hopefully, from there we inspire the kids to have some interest or passion for the game.”