As part of a decade-long outreach program to Pittsburgh-area high school and college students dubbed “Student Rush,” yesterday (May 5) the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins inadvertently sent a cell phone text message to 460 kids telling them they won tickets to tonight’s home playoff game versus the Washington Capitals. That text message was supposed to go to just one student.

TicketNews spoke with Tom McMillan, the team’s Vice President of Communications, who said as soon as they caught the error they were making phone calls and sending texts to explain and apologize for the mistake. That process of clearing things up was continuing as of today (May 6).

“Since the mid-1990s, we’ve had a program to stay in communication with local students – obviously an important demographic for any NHL team,” he said. “The Pens keep the kids informed of what’s going on, when we have available tickets [the Penguins have sold out 110 straight games], merchandise specials, that sort of thing. Part of what we call ‘Student Rush’ is the kids register to win tickets for games, with a random pick. We had a winner – but we sent that text notification to 460 cell phones instead of one!”

The Penguins/Capitals series, which Washington leads 2-0, has been an exciting face-off between two of hockey’s great young stars, Sidney Crosby for the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals. Both players scored hat tricks (three goals each) during Monday’s game in Washington, a rare occurrence in the NHL when opposing players score hat tricks in the same game.

Every Penguins fan who got the mixed-up message will receive a gift package including a $25 gift card, a Penguins cap and T-shirt, and two tickets to a regular season game next season.

“We will look into our IT system and see where we failed, then fix the problem for the future,” McMillan said. “The important thing now is to do right by the kids right away.”

McMillan says the Pens have about 10,000 students in their database. For any given Student Rush promotion, about 6,000 of the kids respond via text. What was supposed to happen yesterday is that one student was to be notified of having won, and the other 5,999 informed that they hadn’t — with, of course, a demographic-specific marketing message.