Jen Ridgley Wins with the Pittsburgh Penguins
Few Penn Staters have ever hoisted the Stanley Cup. (Ryan Lichtenfels ’00, manager of hockey operations with the Anaheim Ducks, was one Nittany Lion to earn a championship ring when the Ducks won in 2007.)
But when it was time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to gather around the 2016 Stanley Cup and pose with their new hardware in June, there was one female pictured among the elite group of hockey players on the ice: Jen Bullano Ridgley ’03, the senior director of communications for the team, for whom this championship was twice as nice, as she was also with the Pens when they won the Cup back in 2009. “I kind of felt like I grew up with these guys—the Crosbys, the Letangs, the Fleurys,” Ridgley said.
In her role, Ridgley is the link between the press and the players, which includes the endless task of managing interviews for superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. She’s the only female to hold this kind of position in the NHL, but that’s a nonissue: “I never considered that it would be a harder road because I was girl. I just wanted to be a part of the Penguins organization,” she said. “But you do have to have tough skin.”
Media access and outlets have both changed since she joined the Pens as a graduate intern back in 2005. Thanks to today’s culture of round-the-clock coverage, there’s very little of the team that you don’t see.
“During the playoffs [this year], we were doing six interviews before the puck even dropped before games,” she said, “And, post-game, we had nine interviews before we even opened the locker room to the general media.”
Shortly after their final win in San Jose, Calif., Crosby texted Ridgley to tell her that he was planning to shave his playoff beard—and Showtime wanted to film it for a documentary.
When the team touched down with the Cup in Pittsburgh, the first thing Ridgley did was pick up her husband and their daughter, Harper, for a celebratory barbecue at Mario Lemieux’s house. The following months were packed with parades, public events, hometown tours, plus more interviews and photo shoots. With the new season officially underway, Ridgley looks back on what was a crazy—but memorable—summer: “It’s the shortest offseason, and the busiest offseason, but it’s the one you hope for.”
Amy Downey, senior editor