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Players assist with a goal for Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, help raise more than $450,000

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, 11:57 a.m.

The entire Pittsburgh Penguins team had an assist on this one goal.

Members of our back-to-back Stanley Cup champions gathered for a "Night of Assists" on Feb. 20 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh's Uptown.

The goal was to raise money for the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, which actively promotes physical well-being, teamwork, education and other life skills to young people through youth hockey and other activities. Last year, the Penguins Foundation contributed $7 million.

Featured initiatives include Project Power Play, which builds dek hockey rinks; drug prevention and education; Operation Restore, which focuses on city and county parks; the STEAM Lending Library, which contains the latest in educational technology from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit; and the Cool Zone, an igloo-shaped safe space for children and special education programs.

The amount raised from this inaugural event was over $450,000 it was announced Feb. 27. Guests paid $500 each for a "Trip Under the Big Top to the Greatest Show on Earth," said Penguins Foundation presidentDave Soltesz.

The ice was covered in black carpet and the arena transformed into a carnival-type setting, complete with casino games manned by your favorite Penguins player. The entire team was there dressed in their player jerseys, complemented with black top hats and sequined bow ties, white gloves and canes.

"These players assist on the ice and have always been willing to assist the foundation in any way," Soltesz said.

The 800 guests dressed in cocktail attire sipped wines from around the world and cotton-candy cocktails in souvenir glasses and enjoyed fun foods such as popcorn, grilled cheese, chocolate-covered apples and bananas, mini donuts, gyros, cheese and crackers, a slider bar and corn dogs. There was live painting and picture opportunities at the Moxie Photo Booth.

The night was filled with spectacular side show performances, such as a stilt walker, clowns and women wearing animal-print outfits dancing inside a cage behind one of the bars. One of the guests donated $20,000 to join the women inside the cage for a photo opportunity.

There was an opening act at center stage with magician Lee Terbosic doing a card trick with players Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

"If you liked the trick then my name is Lee Terbosic, and if you didn't, my name is David Copperfield," said Terbosic, who also invited PensTV host Celina Pompeani to help levitate a table.

After the tricks were done, all the players dispersed to various areas for some game action — roulette, craps and blackjack as well as money wheels — that's where Penguins star Sidney Crosby was surrounded by the largest crowd in the room as he captained the "Spin to Win" game.

A raffle for trips to Las Vegas and London, England, as well as an autographed hockey stick, was won by James Kazil, of Hopewell. He and his wife, Kylee, are passionate Penguins fans.

"It will go in my game room, with my other hockey items," he said. "This event is great because all of these players are so down to earth. We played blackjack with Tom Kuhnhackl, and I think we won more because he helped us."

Among the carnivalgoers were Penguins icon and NHL Hall of Famer MarioLemieux and wife Nathalie, CEO David Morehouse, general manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan.

"This is a chance for the players to interact with the community, " Sullivan said. "The Penguins Foundation raises money for such great causes. It's our responsibility as a team to help the cause. The players enjoy it. The city supports us, and this is our chance to give back."

Also seen: Penguins alumni Randy Hillier, Tyler Kennedy and Mark Recchi, a Pens assistant coach and NHL Hall of Famer, as well as Keith and Jennifer Bertetto, Dan Onorato, Bob Pompeani, Troy and Theodora Polamalu, Matt and Aire Reese and of course, Iceburgh. Dan Potash of AT&T Sportsnet was ring master.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby plays games with guests during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby plays games with guests during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is welcomed on stage during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is welcomed on stage during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Guests enter the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Guests enter the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Guests mill about before the start of 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Guests mill about before the start of 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Penguins goalkeeper Matt Murray is welcomed on stage during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Penguins goalkeeper Matt Murray is welcomed on stage during the 'Night of Assists' at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
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