Pens prospects help coach clinic at Richland Park dek hockey rink
The dek hockey rink at Richland Community Park was filled not just with children but with players who might one day hoist the Stanley Cup as the Penguins Foundation hosted a free youth clinic with help from some of the team’s prospects June 28.
This was the third year the Penguins have had their prospects, including those recently drafted, take part in a youth dek hockey clinic as part of their annual summer development camp. It’s all part of letting the players know early on that when they are a part of the Penguins organization, they’re part of the greater Pittsburgh community as well, Penguins Foundation President Dave Soltesz said.
“In general I think we demand and expect more from our players, and that’s part of this whole prospect camp, to give them a sense or a feeling of what this organization’s really about,” Soltesz said. “We emphasize with our players that it’s important to be part of the community, and this is a little taste. This is what the Penguins organization is about.”
A total of 38 players took part in the development camp, held at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. One-third of the players came to Richland, while the remaining two-thirds were split between clinics at North Park and at the Baierl Family YMCA in Sewickley. The proximity to the Penguins’ practice facility in Cranberry made the locations ideal since the team only gets limited time with the prospects and wants to maximize what’s available, Soltesz said.
Some of the Penguins prospects who were in Richland were 2016 second-round pick Kasper Bjorkqvist, defenseman Peter Tischke and goaltender Christian Propp.
The young community members who took part in the clinic were chosen from among children who already play dek hockey at Richland Park.
The Penguins have been integral in the development of dek hockey at Richland Park, from helping build the rink five years ago to providing free equipment to children as part of the Learn to Play Dek Hockey program, which launched this spring. Kids ages 4 to 9 can get a free helmet, stick, gloves, shin pads and a T-shirt.
“I want to compliment the Penguins, first of all,” Richland township Manager Dean Bastianini said. “They’re very community-minded. They don’t have to do this but obviously they make an effort to build their fan base starting when they’re this age. It’s also a very expensive sport sometimes, and the Penguins have been very cooperative with making donations to allow kids to get the gear they need to play the game. At this age it’s about having fun and learning the skills so you can have fun, and this incorporates all those things.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.