by Tony on 03/02/13 at 08:36 AM ET
From the Toronto Globe and Mail's James Mirtle:
They call them Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins.
One thousand kids, aged 4 to 8, who every year for the past four years have received full hockey equipment paid for by the Pittsburgh Penguins, their 25-year-old captain and several sponsors.
The numbers may sound like a drop in the bucket in Canada, where one in 10 kids are already playing, but they matter in a place like Pittsburgh, where even when the Penguins have ruled, the game has never really flourished at the minor-hockey level.
But the combined effect of Crosby and Co. providing free gear and instruction has brought a quick and dramatic change that landscape in this football-crazed city, to the point that there are now 120-per-cent more children aged 10 and under playing in Western Pennsylvania than even five years earlier.
A region with fewer than four million people, in other words, has accounted for 15 per cent of the growth in youth hockey in the United States, outpacing every other state.
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