Sidney Crosby's future presence has Pittsburgh cash registers singing.
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, in the roughly five days since becoming inbound Pittsburgh Penguins property, already means this much to the NHL franchise:
UA guy called from Australia wanting Penguins tickets.
UA guy called from San Diego and purchased a season-ticket package.
UA local guy brought his checkbook, showed up at their door and plunked down a deposit on two partial-season plans, all in the moments before closing on his new house.
The telephones in the club's offices have rung so incessantly since the Penguins won the lottery -- securing Saturday's first draft pick in Ottawa -- that four ticket-sales representatives spent all evening at the telephones until midnight last Friday. They spent from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. there Saturday and almost as long Sunday.
Although Penguins officials decline to release figures, it's conceivable that, ever since commissioner Gary Bettman opened their envelope and pronounced them the winner of the Crosby sweepstakes, the Penguins have sold upwards of 150,000 tickets and generated $1 million in down payments alone.
Business is booming
However, these numbers they will divulge: They received ticket requests from 10 states, added one employee from another department to work the phone lines and continue to look to hire more sales reps.
Certainly, the drafting of Ben Roethlisberger never gave this kind of bump to the Steelers, nor any first-rounder to the Pirates, for that matter. Rather, the arrival of a 17-year-old phenom from Nova Scotia is a marketing, merchandising, mega-hype bonanza along the lines of what LeBron James is to Cleveland.
In short, Sid sells.
"Clearly, we haven't seen a rush like this in a long time," said Tom McMillan, the Penguins' vice president of communications and marketing. "The trends are very encouraging, and we haven't really started [promoting a campaign].
"Your biggest spikes in ticket sales don't really start until the schedule comes out [which should be later this week] and we're way ahead of the curve. We've been selling a lot of full season-ticket packages right now. People are lining up."
At the doors
On Monday, a dozen or so people came to their offices, including the guy with his checkbook, Jeff Kuklinski, shortly before he closed on a house in nearby Dormont, Pa. Part of the reason he came downtown: He couldn't get through on the busy phone lines.
"We were talking about buying tickets a week ago," Kuklinski said. "But when this happened, everybody said, 'You better get them now.' No reason not to do it."
So a guy who usually attends a half-dozen games per season suddenly walked out of the Penguins' offices with 20-game plans for two seats, a $1,200-plus cost for a $150 deposit.
The caller from San Diego, a transplanted Pittsburgher, told Penguins sales reps that he planned to attend a few games and try to give away others to family and friends.
The Australian, considering he was a half-world away, was prepared to immediately buy seats for specific games without even knowing the schedule or the availability of inexpensive, trans-Pacific flights, though McMillan said that team officials took his number and basically told him "we'd definitely take care of him.
"We're going to be the epicenter of the hockey world for a while," continued McMillan, who added that the No. 87 merchandise is coming soon. "We know the excitement is going to be back. We're going along for the ride right now."