Fans show up early to support Penguins

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Tony Tye, Post-Gazette photos
From left, Melissa Berard, of Plum, Kim Shuttleworth, of Shadyside, Maddy Bauer, 8, and her brother J.C. Bauer, 7, of South Butler, take part in a rally at Mellon Arena yesterday afternoon to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Pens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, 3-2 in overtime.
By Linda Wilson Fuoco
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A steady stream of people wearing black and gold hockey jerseys walked up the entrance ramps of Mellon Arena more than four hours before the start of the Penguins game yesterday.

Shortly after 3 p.m. there were about 400 fans outside the doors of the arena for a real grass-roots "Save the Pens" rally that was started by a high school student and his friends.

John Celender, 18, of Ross, a senior at North Hills High School, said he posted items on Pittsburgh Penguins message boards on the Internet, suggesting a 3 p.m. rally on Sunday, Jan. 7. He and his friends spread the word to their friends and relatives "and then information about the rally started showing up on MySpace and Facebook."

People of all ages showed up yesterday afternoon, many of them married couples with young children in tow. Random interviews with rally-goers indicated they had heard about the gathering on talk radio shows and in some cases, from announcers during Penguins games.

Many arrived at the arena carrying signs with slogans such as "Penguins Belong in Pittsburgh," "Save Our Pens and Save Pittsburgh Jobs" and "Keep OUR Penguins HERE."

Many of the signs had negative things to say about Kansas City, whose officials and residents have made it known that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be more than welcome in that city.

Mr. Celender and his friends had a table set up with paper and colored markers, encouraging people to make signs right on the spot. Many did.

Spontaneous cheers broke out, including the ubiquitous "Let's Go Pens" and "Here We Go Penguins." Many rally-goers indicated they would stay on site right up to the start of the 7:30 p.m. game.

A local band called Barkers Beauties played sports fight songs as well as songs from the band's playbook. Trumpet player Jason Bair, 22, a California University of Pennsylvania student, said the group is a ska band.

Mr. Bair said he and others in the band are friends of Mr. Celender. Band members live in the Hill District, he said, and attend local colleges, including Duquesne University, Point Park University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Celender said he is a huge fan and a season ticket holder. He said he buys the tickets with money he earns working at his mother's beauty shop -- Becky's Hair Atelier in McCandless.

"I answer phones and clean up and do whatever they need," Mr. Celender said.


Julie Graham and her boyfriend, Doug Vettorel, both of West View, take part in a rally yesterday outside Mellon Arena, where some 400 people turned out in support of keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Click photo for larger image.

Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.


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