By: Josh Taylor, KDKA-TV Sports
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Penguins have had four days off since their last game, which is rare in the middle of the season, but they were able to use some of that free time to their advantage between practicing and enjoying things other than hockey.
With PPG Paints Arena featuring the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament over the weekend, the team got to witness the excitement of March Madness up close and personal.
“You watch the tournament all the time growing up over the years, so it’s cool to see it in person,” said defenseman Justin Schultz, who played college hockey at the University of Wisconsin. “It was a very neat environment.”
“It’s fun,” team captain Sidney Crosby said. “When we host that stuff, we don’t always get a chance because if you’re hosting it, it usually means you’re somewhere else. It was great to be able to see it up close, and I hope we can get stuff like that in the future.”
After the final game was played on Saturday, the team was invited down to shoot around on the hardwood floor. Crosby, Schultz and goaltender Matt Murray were among the group that went to shoot some hoops and take photos with fans.
“We shot some, but we weren’t very good,” said Schultz, laughing. “But we gave it a try. It was pretty cool to be down on the court and see how small the court actually is compared to watching on TV, and how high the rim is. It’s a lot harder than it looks, for sure.”
“I don’t know how many great basketball players you have [on our roster], but it’s cool to be out there and experience it,” said the 5-foot-11-inch Crosby. “I’d say [defenseman Jamie Oleksiak] is probably pretty decent under the hoop at least, but I think we had fun being there and taking everything in.”
One former teammate who might have enjoyed the experience is Ryan Reaves, who played one-on-one against Phil Kessel earlier in the season. The game was captured on camera for the Penguins’ feature show, “In The Room.” Reaves, who grew up in Canada, but enjoys playing basketball in his spare time, scored four goals in 58 games for the Penguins this season before being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 23.
Duquesne University was the official host of the men’s tournament, which returns to Pittsburgh in 2022.