For the first time in the 53-year history of the program, the Johnstown Warriors Cambria Youth Hockey Program rostered an all-girls team this season, and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played a big role in making it happen.
Each player on the 12-and-under team, which is based outside of Pittsburgh, first began playing the game in Crosby's Little Penguins "Learn to Play Hockey" program, and the squad was surprised with tickets to see their idol play last week versus the Anaheim Ducks.
"Every single girl, all 17 of them, started with the Little Penguins. That's why we have a team now," head coach Sheri Hudspeth told Michelle Crechiolo of the Penguins' website. "This doesn't happen without him. We are so grateful."
The Warriors thought they were on the way to play a game, but their bus stopped in front PPG Paints Arena for the NHL contest.
"We told the girls that since they all played Little Penguins, they're here to see the big Penguins," Hudspeth added. "They came off the bus just screaming."
The team showed up early to see Crosby during warmups. It also gave him a jersey signed by every player, along with autographed individual photos of the entire roster and a plaque.
The gesture and the program's appearance at the game - during which Crosby recorded a goal and an assist - resonated with the longtime Penguins superstar.
"I think that's really cool," he said. "That's what it's all about. It doesn't always work out that way, but the fact that they made a team and are all continuing to play is great. My sister Taylor grew up playing hockey, and sometimes growing up, we had girls on our team. The fact there's enough girls to make a full team tells you that girls' hockey is doing pretty well. It's great to see."