Penguins serve up smiles at annual Skates & Plates

| Sunday, March 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

One of the dangers of being the new guy in town is that you never quite know whom you can trust.

“Beau (Bennett) brought his skates,” revealed Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. “Up until 45 minutes ago, he thought he'd be serving plates on his skates.”

And so it goes that another rookie began his requisite hazing, albeit whilst donning tie and tails rather than sweater and shin pads during the annual Skates & Plates gala on March 5 at Consol Energy Center, Uptown.

Rumored to have been punk'd by veterans James Neal and Pascal Dupuis, the story took on a life of its own as an entertaining sidebar to the annual event where players are put to task waiting on tables to earn “tips” that are divvied up between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Mario Lemieux Foundation and Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. This year, the event fetched $300,000.

Amid much swooning, they were introduced — leaving a crowd of 300 starry-eyed (regardless of age or gender) as each player was escorted to his assigned table, given a bottle of wine and put to work.

As usual, wagers were running high on who would be the first to drop a plate, although opinions differed on who had the best odds, “It's usually a rookie,” surmised Penguins prez David Morehouse (with Vanessa). “I'm going with (Evgeni)Malkin, a veteran,” countered emcee Larry Richert. “He's comfortable serving up the puck, but not so much with dinner.”

Notwithstanding predictions of disaster, if a plate did drop from the hands of Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brandon Sutter, Deryk Engelland, Matt Cooke, Tanner Glass, Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy, Brooks Orpik or tip champion Robert Bortuzzo,it went unnoticed by GM Ray Shero (with Karen), Tony Granato, Todd Reirden, Tom Grealish, Nancy Angus, Corey O'Connor, and Paul andJudy Wood.

“The players really enjoy themselves, which is a good indication of the type of character they have,” says David Malone (with Nancy).

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