The two girls, Olivia and Selena, were under Crosby’s charge for a while Monday afternoon as the team’s players took part in the annual Penguins Personal Shopping Day, part of the Salvation Army and WTAE-TV Project Bundle-Up.
After participating in a team practice at Consol Energy Center, the players showered and headed north to the Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Cranberry. There, they each pulled on their game jersey and set out with one or two children from the bus load that had arrived from the Canon-McMillan School District. Through gift cards, Dick’s and the Salvation Army donated the cost of new coats, boots, hats and gloves for the low- and low-middle-income school kids. The Penguins Foundation also supports Project Bundle-Up.
“They feel like little princes and princesses because they know that they’re getting their winter outerwear.” Director of Project Bundle-Up Melissa Fereday said of the 28 children at the outing. “But to have a celebrity help them pick it out and try it on, they’re all really excited about it.
“And then some of them are really excited just to get a new pair of boots. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Defenseman Rob Scuderi was one of the first players to arrive at the store. He met Joe and a different Olivia (a popular name among girls, apparently).
“Want to do boots first?” Scuderi asked. He checked the shoe size on the information card that every player got for their pint-size shoppers, then dropped to his knees to sift through rows of winter boots hunting for the proper size in the styles that Joe and Olivia liked.
About that time, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo set out with Aydin and suggested they start with a coat. Aydin, being a boy through and through, balked.
“You don’t like coats? Well, you need a coat,” Bortuzzo said.
They settled on a two-tone navy and medium blue coat and Aydin somewhat reluctantly tried it on.
“Oh, this is sharp. You’ve got good taste,” Bortuzzo said, and he wondered about the fit. “How are your arms? Move around a little and see how it feels.”
Back at the boots display, winger Pascal Dupuis and his shopper, a boy named Braiden, picked out a pair and decided to look for a coat. Dupuis has a large family, four children, and an equally large wit. So he teased Braiden, “The pink and purple coats are that way. Let’s go.”
“I want to be a broadcaster,” Olivia announced with conviction.
“I think you’ve come to the right place,” Crosby said, smiling.
Selena picked white boots with pink accents. Olivia chose dark boots with purple accents.
“They aren’t too big, are they?” Crosby asked Olivia, poking a finger into the outside of the toe area of the boot to feel where her feet were like a veteran shoe salesman.
“They’re comfortable. They’re real comfortable,” Olivia said.
The color preferences of Crosby’s shoppers were set.
“What’s next? Coats?” Crosby said. “Let me guess – purple and pink.”
Olivia offered, “I have a big furry coat at home. It’s not comfortable.”
Crosby smiled, something he did a lot Monday afternoon. “All right,” he said. “We’re going to fix that.”