Knitting Lady and I had such a great time meeting some of the players at the morning skate on our last trip, we headed back down to the arena Friday morning. Once again the Pens did not disappoint. Check out our photos after the jump.
We actually got a head start on things when @PensKnittngLady met Dustin Jeffrey in the hotel restaurant Thanksgiving night. He was nice enough to sign our photo book. We also ran into him Saturday morning as we were about to head home and he signed our jerseys.
We made sure to head out early Friday morning in order to catch Dan Bylsma, who is not surprisingly one of the earliest to arrive at the arena. All of the guys who have stopped to sign have been really cool, but Coach ranks right up there with Flower and Duper in the outgoing personality category. He can now add "photographed by PensAreYourDaddy while holding the Knitting Lady's lucky sock" to a resume that already includes a Jack Adams Award and Stanley Cup win.
And he signed his photo on the title page of our book.
Next to join us was Chris Kunitz. Chris had already signed our jerseys and the book on our last trip, so we got a photo with him holding the lucky sock.
It is worth noting that Kuni would go on to score a goal that night against Ottawa.
Pens defenseman/enforcer Deryk Engelland had also signed our jerseys last time out, so we got a sock photo and he signed the book.
Later that night, Engo picked up an assist on the Kunitz goal.
Matt Cooke had already run the table on our last trip (jerseys, sock photo, book), but he didn't seem to be in any hurry to get into practice so I happily got his autograph on a second photo in the book.
While Matt would not go on to score that night, lending support to the theory that the sock is luckier than the book, he did finish as a +1 with 0 PIM in a fairly solid game, so it does appear that the book is not inherently unlucky.
Over the years, everything we've seen or heard about Pascal Dupuis, whether at games, on 24/7 or from other fans, is that he is a great guy. Well, he certainly didn't disappoint us in this meeting. First we got one of the all-time great sock photos...
...then he signed the book...
and he signed our jerseys. Not surprisingly, Duper went on to score a goal in the Pens win over Ottawa that night.
There's no better way to finish up an autograph session than with Marc-Andre Fleury. I doubt you'll find a guy who looks happier in a sock photo or signing a book. When it comes to fan relations, Fleury is world class. He is usually the last guy to practice so he doesn't stop to sign on his way in, but he does stop to let everyone know that they can catch him after practice. Then he rolls up just as promised and happily signs and takes pics with everyone there. It wasn't a huge crowd so he probably got through it in no more than five minutes or so. I don't harbor any ill will toward the guys who choose not to stop, but what a difference those five minutes make to the fans who cherish a rare opportunity to get a little interaction with this team that we love so much.
Later that night, Flower went out and had a solid performance to get the win over the Senators.
The jerseys are starting to fill up nicely, getting a little bit crowded even.
Once again, we had a blast. It's a lot of fun to be out there meeting other fans and hearing their stories. The only unfortunate side to the day was courtesy of the "professional" autograph seekers, the guys who are just collecting signatures to sell on Ebay.
That group isn't all bad. Some respect the rules of the road, but there's an element that gives all of them a bad name. They show up in teams with cars and radios. In the morning session they push their way up to the front of the line with no respect for players or fans.
In the afternoon session they are even worse. When players don't stop to sign, these guys are waiting in their cars and they try to get in front of the players' cars in order to get them stopped at a red light so that their partners on the ground can run up and get the autographs. The sad part is that it works.
Strangely, there is often a police presence there in the morning to keep fans from crossing some imaginary line, but in the afternoon when the players' safety might actually be compromised, security is nowhere in sight.
I realize that everybody has to make a buck to survive, but these people should all die a slow, painful death. I considered posting some photos of them, but they don't even really deserve to be mentioned in this post much less pictured here. Whatever, one of these times these fools are going to mess with the wrong group of fans.
Alright, down off my soapbox. There are still some players' autographs and sock photos we'd like to get, so you can be sure this won't be the last of these posts. Hope you liked it! Look for more game photos coming up following the December 1 game against the Caps.