Penguins’ Sidney Crosby delivers ‘highlight of my life’ for season-ticket holder |
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Jonathan Bombulie
Penguins captan Sidney Crosby (shooting right-handed) beats Sophia Madison at season ticket holders Tony and Betsy Villiotti's home Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 in Greentree.

Sidney Crosby has been taking a day before the start of training camp to deliver tickets to Pittsburgh Penguins season-ticket holders for more than a decade now.

He said he always enjoys the process because of the different perspective it affords him.

While he’s playing, Penguins fans are a mass of bodies filling PPG Paints Arena. He only hears their cheers. That sort of support is appreciated, of course, but when he’s in their living room, they’re Tony and Betsy from Scott Township, and he gets to put a face to the roar. It’s far more personal.

“It’s cool to be able to do that and hear their stories and how long they’ve had tickets for,” Crosby said. “You hear a story like today where they have a draft within the family to get certain games. That’s fun, and that’s what hockey does.”

The draft Crosby referred to took place a few days ago.

Tony and Betsy Villiotti of Scott have been season-ticket holders since 1988. Theirs is the home Crosby was visiting Monday afternoon.

They split the 41-game season schedule between themselves, their son Dave and daughter Gina and their families, and they all got together to decide who would be going to which game. The Crosby and Kris Letang bobblehead nights were the first two draft picks.

All three generations of the Villiotti family were present for Crosby’s ticket delivery Monday, including Dave, his wife Alicia and their children Addison, Sidney and Grace, and Gina, her husband James Madison and their children, Joey and Sophia.

Shortly after Crosby arrived, he adjourned to the driveway for some street hockey with Sidney, Joey and Sophia.

“I think these kids are just excited to be here and I’m excited too, just to meet them and spend some time with them and see how much they love the game,” Crosby said. “They go to a couple games, but these are kids who hopefully grow up supporting the team and having great memories watching the games.”

Meeting Sidney Villiotti was a special treat for Crosby. He runs into plenty of people (not to mention pets) who share his first name, but there was a special connection in this case.

“It’s Sidney with an I too, which is pretty rare,” Crosby said. “Usually it’s, ‘I have the same name, but it’s with a Y.'”

Needless to say, it was a special moment for Tony Villioti as well. When the Penguins called him to tell him a player would be delivering the family’s season tickets, the team wouldn’t say which player it was. When they gathered in front of the window and saw Crosby get out of his car, a wild cheer went up from the living room.

Even more than having a future Hall of Famer in his house, Villioti said he enjoyed watching the scene in the driveway.

“To see my grandkids have fun just makes my day,” he said. “It’s a true highlight of my life.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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