With the opening puck drop between the Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes four hours away and kickoff between the Steelers and Denver Broncos slightly more than five hours away on Sunday, the Penguins' official Twitter account beckoned to students in search of a sports-filled afternoon. “Feeling extra #BurghProud?” the account asked. “Join us for #CARvsPIT and stay for the Steelers game afterward!” A link to the Penguins' student rush program, which sells tickets at a discounted rate on the day of the game, concluded the tweet. A mixture of savvy marketing and a sense for what drives local fans has put the Penguins, an organization on the cusp of collapse in the late 1990s, in a position to reach 400 consecutive sellouts. Barring a surprise, the Penguins' paid attendance figure for Thursday's 7 p.m. game with Philadelphia will reach or surpass 18,387, the figure needed for the team to reach the milestone. How much credit does student rush deserve for the streak? That depends on how its contributions are defined, said Travis Williams, chief operating officer of the Penguins and the person supervising the organization's business while president David Morehouse recovers from heart surgery. “It's not to drive us to 18,387,” Williams said of the program's purpose. “It's allowed us over the last 10-plus years to build a growing fan base. Eventually those students become able to buy and afford season tickets or partial season tickets or maybe they're buying four or five games apiece, but they've come back and been great supporters of the team and a major reason why we've been able to continue the sellout streak for as long as we have.” Apparently the gap between 400 and 500 is where NHL sellout streaks die. Vancouver's streak of 474 ended Oct. 18, 2014. Minnesota's ended at 409 on Sept. 22, 2010. Montreal intentionally ended its streak at 422 on Dec. 9, 2014, by leaving empty a seat long occupied by Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, who died days earlier. Colorado claims to own the league record with 487 straight from Nov. 9, 1995, to Oct. 14, 2006.
Penguins in position to achieve 400th consecutive sellout
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | Jan 21