The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 30, 2010

Charity auction offers a chance to work with the Penguins

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Dana Heinze and his Pittsburgh Penguins staff have hoisted the Stanley Cup.

Now, the Pens’ head equipment manager and his assistants will be part of a prize package during the Ziggy’s Fundraiser silent auction on June 5 at Planet Ice. The auction and an alumni Chiefs game will be held with the $50 donation to benefit Dave “Ziggy” Zeigler, who was diagnosed with brain cancer.

In what has to be one of the more original prizes in a silent auction, the Penguins staff will welcome the highest bidder as an honorary equipment manager at a team practice in the new Consol Energy Center next NHL season.

Posters touting the prize state, “You’ve turned on the TV. You’ve seen the puck drop. But do you know what goes on behind the scenes? Now you can by joining Dana Heinze, Paul Defazio and Danny Kroll as an honorary equipment manager.”

The honorary staffer will work with Heinze and his crew during a practice and get an up-close look at how the players prepare for a game. The minimum bid for the prize is $1,500.

“The premise is that people turn on their TVs and watch the game, but nobody has an idea of what truly goes on behind the scenes,” Heinze said.

“The thought behind this is that a lot of people would like the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes with the Penguins. This is their chance to be a part of the Penguins for one day.

“It’s a lot more work than people might realize,” he added. “They don’t know that we’re there at 6 in the morning, and they don’t know what the job entails. At the end of the day, for an equipment manager the rewards are a win. If you lose, you have to remember there is another day and another game. It is a job.”

Heinze said the honorary staffer will put in an honest day’s work. They’ll also get to interact with some of the NHL’s top players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. The staffer will get to see how Heinze and his staff perform the big jobs as well as the minute, perhaps somewhat mundane details that still are important to the operation.

“They will be a part of our staff,” Heinze said. “They will come and work with us. They will see what we do as a staff on a day-to-day basis. They’re going to see the behind-the-scenes working. They’re going to have the  ‘in’ for the day. They’re going to work practice. Maybe the price tag at first is a little sticker shock. Considering the situation with Ziggy, I think it’s more than fair.”

Zeigler managed the pro shop at Cambria County War Memorial Arena for many years before opening his own shop, Ziggy’s, across the street from the arena. He has assisted the Chiefs and the Penguins equipment staffs. A close friend of Heinze’s, Zeigler joined the staff as an emergency fill-in several years ago, but performed his duties and was liked by the players so well that Heinze asked him to work all the home games.

Zeigler even was part of the Penguins on-ice Stanley Cup celebration after Game 7 in Detroit last year.

“This is going to be a big, big deal,” Heinze said of Ziggy’s Fundraiser.

“We’re coming together for a great cause. This is unbelievable. Our entire staff is going to be there. Ziggy is part of our family in Pittsburgh.”

In addition to the daily routine, Heinze hopes the honorary staffer will catch a glimpse of the Penguins players in their natural work setting.

“I would hope that someone coming in would see that these guys are normal people,” Heinze said. “They just have a talent. These people are normal people. That’s the special thing about it. That’s the good thing about it.”