PITTSBURGH - Area hockey fans who make the trip to Pittsburgh this season may recognize a familiar face when the famous Penguins Ice Crew takes to the ice to remove the excess snow at Consol Energy Center.
Marietta native Annie O'Brien has been selected as one of the 16 members of the "Ice Crew" for the 2012-13 season.
"I am so excited," said the 2009 graduate of Marietta High School. "I can't wait for the preseason to get started."
The Ice Crew skates onto the ice during breaks in the action to clean up the excess ice as well as entertaining the fans in the stands and also doing charitable events throughout the Pittsburgh community.
O'Brien is no stranger to the ice as she began skating at the age of 11 and competed as a figure skater throughout much of her youth.
A senior at the University of Pittsburgh, O'Brien is a former silver medalist winner at the Ohio Winter Skating Classic in Athens.
It took O'Brien just one visit to see the Pens to find what she would consider her dream job as she worked her way through college.
"The very first game I went to as a freshman I knew I wanted to be a member of the Ice Crew," said O'Brien. "It's got to be the best job a college student could have."
O'Brien's freshman year at Pitt also happened to be the year that the Pens claimed their third National Hockey League Stanley Cup.
The thrill of performing on the ice in front of a crowd that averages more than 18,000 per home date for a team that had the best home record in the Eastern Conference last year is an opportunity of a lifetime for O'Brien.
"I have been a longtime fan of the Penguins so this is a great opportunity for me," said O'Brien, whose step father Jeff Walker is the former wrestling coach at MHS. "I have a lot going on right now, but right now this is the first thing on my mind."
O'Brien and the other 15 members were selected from over 70 skaters who tried out for the Ice Crew.
One big adjustment for O'Brien has been the difference in the type of skates she will skate in.
"Hockey skates are so much different than figure skates," said O'Brien. "It took a while but now it's coming along very well."
This year's Penguin team is one of the preseason favorites to claim the Stanley Cup after going 51-25-6 in 2011-2012 regular season, before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs.
"You can already feel the excitement here in Pittsburgh," said O'Brien, of the upcoming hockey season. "It's just a great organization and they have such a great history, you expect them to do well."
O'Brien will no doubt be one very busy individual this fall as in addition to her duties with the Penguins, she will also continue to major in linguistics at Pitt as well as minoring in French.
Once she graduates from Pitt next spring, O'Brien plans to attend law school.
For now, however, O'Brien is very much looking forward to the 41 home games the Penguins will host in the 2012-2013 season.
"I'm just really thrilled to be a part of the Pens' organization," said O'Brien. "I just love the city of Pittsburgh and can't wait for the season to start."
Fans of O'Brien and the rest of the Ice Crew can find out additional information by going to pittsburghpenguins.com and clicking on the fan zone icon.
O'Brien and the Ice Crew will kick off the preseason on September 26 as the Detriot Red Wings visit the Penguins.