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Season's start, new schedule keeps Penguins' ticket staff busy

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Black & gold scrimmage

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma does not want to start the NHL regular season without a practice game. However, with no exhibitions scheduled, he is left to orchestrate one on his own. A scrimmage Wednesday at Consol Energy Center will simulate a regular-season game day.

“It's great we are doing it,” winger Pascal Dupuis said. “Getting that rhythm is important for a player, even down to the afternoon nap before the game. Your body has to get used to these things.”

Need-to-know information about Wednesday:

• Trib Total Media gate opens at 6 p.m. Scrimmage starts at 7 p.m.

• Admission is free, as is parking at Consol Energy Center lots (after 5 p.m.).

• The box office and Penguins Gear stores will be open, as will select concession stands.

• Players will have a morning practice. They will return home for rest and return to the rink in suits as they would the regular season.

• Players will take part in a warm-up skate.

• Three 20-minute periods will be played. There will be two intermissions.

• Regardless of the score, a 4-on-4 and shootout will be played.

• There will be occasional breaks to set up situations such as defensive-zone faceoffs and for special-teams scenarios.

• Root Sports Pittsburgh and Penguins HD Radio will broadcast the scrimmage. On TV, broadcaster Bob Errey will work between the benches, with Paul Steigerwald calling the game from the media box.

—Rob Rossi

Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 11:34 p.m.

Last weekend was unseasonably warm outside and filled with the NFL playoffs inside. But a good portion of the Penguins' staff spent most of Friday through Sunday cooped up in Consol Energy Center tending to more pressing matters.

“And believe me when I tell you this, not a single person was complaining about it,” David Peart, the club's senior vice-president of sales, said Monday.

Among the several lockout-induced tasks needing completion before the Penguins' Jan. 23 home opener, none looms larger than getting fans their tickets. The printing started Friday night ahead of Saturday's official approval of the schedule.

“There was no other way to get it done,” Peart said.

The Penguins have about 16,000 full and partial season-ticket holders, with another 2,000 tickets set aside for single games.

The club not only mails its tickets, but also prints them, a formidable task considering 11 of the 24 home dates left after the lockout were rescheduled.

Season tickets for the full schedule and the two “mini” plans went out in September. But even though most of the dates remained the same, the club printed an entirely new batch of tickets to avoid confusion.

The approximately 64,000 tickets for the first four home games went out first, which meant considerable printing and envelope-stuffing. So many tickets, so little time.

“It was very labor intensive,” Peart said.

“You'd typically like to have a couple of weeks instead of three days,” said Chad Slencak, the Penguins' vice president of ticket sales. “It was pretty much all hands on deck.”

Slecak said the tickets should arrive by the end of the week.

“All things considered, I feel pretty confident we did pretty well,” he said.

Peart said other matters also require prompt attention, including naming advertising and marketing, sponsorships, merchandise, concessions and communications.

Peart said advertising has especially been altered by the lockout. With all of the uncertainty, it will be geared less toward selling the brand and more toward informing fans about the changes.

“We've spent a good deal of time and energy crafting a message,” he said. “Our marketing plan is far more significant than what we have done for the start of previous seasons.”

Peart, who held previous jobs with the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers after starting out with the Penguins, said the club was well-prepared for the season's start, whenever it happened, even though this was uncharted territory. He even checked into how NBA teams handled their post-lockout strategies last season.

“We had done a lot of planning, a lot of scenario discussions,” he said. “Over the last several months, we spent a lot of time talking about various scenarios and also planning for the things we would do when hockey comes back.

“We did not stop working through the lockout. And we spent a lot of that time making sure we were poised and ready for the start of the season.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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