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Penguins passionate about pleasing fans

by Brian Coe || AHL On The Beat

If you’ve ever come to a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins game in time to watch warmups, you have probably noticed Rob Schremp lingering on the ice after the buzzer to clear the rink went off.

He’s normally a little late getting back to the locker room, but it’s with good reason. Schremp has a little ritual he follows each game. After the skate around, he picks up a handful of pucks and tosses them out to kids in the stands. It’s a routine that he’s been carrying on for the past several seasons, but one that has its origins years earlier.

"If you got a puck [at a game], you thought you were it, you know what I mean?" Schremp said, thinking back to his days attending Syracuse Crunch games as a youngster. "If you caught a puck at a game it was unbelievable. I just remember that as a kid, always wanting to catch a puck."

Now he’s serving them up with regularity.

"When I was 16 [in junior hockey], I threw a puck to a kid and his face lit up. So ever since then I’ve been doing it," he said. "You see how excited the kids get when they get something like that at a game. It kind of makes their night, makes them want to come back and see the game again. It makes you feel special.

"It’s something small. It doesn’t really take any extra time out of my day, but it just makes them feel so good about coming to the game. It makes me happy to make them happy."

There may also be some other advantages to handing out a few gifts before a game, especially in away venues, where Schremp carries on the tradition as well.

"One kid was booing us in Philadelphia and I handed him a puck and he totally changed his tone," laughed Schremp. "He was like ‘Oh, thank you.’ It was pretty funny."

So Schremp takes care of the kids before the games. But it’s Noah Welch who sends them away happy afterward. As he walks back to the locker room, Welch regularly stops and presents his game stick to one lucky fan sitting near the Penguins’ runway.

Like Schremp, Welch’s giving attitude dates back to a personal experience.

welch_200.jpg"One time I was at a [Boston College] hockey game when I was younger, and some kid was coming off and he had a broken stick and handed it to me," he said, eyes spread wide. "That really made my month, it was like the greatest thing ever. It was a broken stick, I couldn’t use it at all. That’s why I do it, because I remember that feeling."

Welch’s sticks are a little different than most guys on the team. He still plays with a wood stick, while the majority of his teammates use composite sticks, which can cost a very hefty sum. Those sticks generally have to be turned back in to the team and manufacturer when they meet their demise. But Welch is able to dole his much more cost-effective twigs out as he sees fit.

"I’m not joking, that’s one of the reasons to stay in wood," he said. "I think it’s part of the benefit of having them, when you can hand them out to little kids and it’s not really at the team’s expense."

Like Schremp, Welch also enjoys seeing the reaction when a kid walks away with a souvenir from the game.

"Trust me, I love it too. Sometimes they’ll see you at a signing and they’ll bring it up and they’re all fired up," he said. "It makes me just as happy as it makes them."