With ‘Santa Claus' ticket routine, Penguins continue to impress

There are two types of teams in the NHL: Those who do the bare minimum to cultivate their fan bases, either due to indolence or the assumption that paying customers will come back to the rink as long as there's an occasional free popcorn coupon and a Kiss-Cam on the Jumbotron; and those who go the extra mile for their fans.

Even in that giant goof-up by the Pittsburgh Penguins last week with the playoff ticket text message snafu, the bottom line was that the team was attempting to reward college-aged fans for their passion. Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed another quiet fan-relations initiative the Penguins have been using for those who come to Mellon Arena to watch games on the outdoor big screen: Team executives literally handing out free tickets to unsuspecting fans, bringing them inside for that night's game.

Memo to Penguins fans attending Game 6: Look desperate for anyone wearing a suit. From the Post-Gazette:

The giveaway is a tradition the Penguins quietly and discreetly started in last year's playoffs to reward fans who come to support them but might not have the means to get inside. "Things like this never happen to me," said Mrs. Frollo, who had never attended a Penguins game in person before last night. "My heart's pounding. My hands are shaking. I've never been inside. I've been telling people to come down here because it's so much fun, and we end up getting free tickets."

[...]

A thank you e-mail was sent to the organization by Jenna Rosenbauer, a college student who got into Wednesday's game with two friends. "The three of us would have to spend our life savings to buy tickets to a Penguins playoff game. [We] were in disbelief the entire night," she said. "Thank you for always taking care of all Pens' fans, not just the regular ticket buyers. It is one of the many reasons I am proud to be a Pens fan!"

Director of ticketing Chad Slencak told the paper: "It makes you feel a little like Santa Claus." Good thing this is Pittsburgh and not Philly.

Look, we're as cynical as they come. Feel-good stories usually make us feel bad. But the economy sucks, teams are going Chapter 11 and no one knows what the attendance figures for 2009-10 are going to look like. The Penguins are a team that doesn't exactly struggle at the gate, and yet they seem dedicated to rewarding fans on a consistent basis and in a very personal way. It's laudable, for a franchise that already has a black and gold cult following it.

Where does your team of choice rank when it comes to public relations: Cold and calculated or pleasant and personable? And what's the best perk you've ever gotten for your loyalty?

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