PITTSBURGH - It's the biggest day in the life a young hockey player.
The NHL teams convene every June to draft players, and it's become a big event.
A lot of the eligible players are on hand, especially those projected to go in the first round.
Their names are called, prompting a handshake from Dad, a kiss from Mom and the walk to the podium, where the player meets the management of the team that drafted him.
Then he pulls on a jersey and cap, poses for pictures and it's a day to remember.
It isn't that sweet for all players, though.
Some of them never get a call on draft day, and that can be crushing.
It was for Phil Bourque of Chelmsford, Mass., who expected to be among the draft class of 1982.
He had been tipped that the Quebec Nordiques were interested and would probably select him in the sixth round.
But 12 rounds passed, 252 players were selected and Bourque's phone never rang.
The next day, the Boston Globe ran the entire draft list. Bourque clipped the list from the paper, took a marker and wrote the words, "Where Are You?" on it, and taped it to his mirror, so he would see it every day.
"That was my motivation," said Bourque, currently the analyst on Penguins radio broadcasts.
It worked, too. He managed to get a tryout with the Penguins, and earned a minor league contract. He made his NHL debut in the 1983-84 season, and made it to the NHL as a regular in 1988.
He played 344 games with the Penguins and 477 in the National Hockey League.
The Penguins' second round pick that season, Tim Hrynewich, played 55 games over two seasons, the extent of his NHL career.
It happens. Just as a top pick can flop, a player overlooked in the draft can become a productive NHL player.
The Penguins have several examples on their roster, including defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Ben Lovejoy, and forwards Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu and Chris Conner.
"It's been an interesting journey, that's for sure," said Letestu, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury.
Michalek, a native of the Czech Republic, moved to Canada as a teenager to play junior hockey and to get drafted for the NHL.
"I gave up my school and it didn't work out," he said. "So I was really disappointed when I didn't get drafted."
Conner didn't have those feelings. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, he didn't expect to get drafted. He was fresh out of Michigan Tech when the Dallas Stars organization decided to offer him a contract.
He was with the Stars for three seasons. When they cut him loose in 2009, the Penguins signed him.
Conner was up for eight games with Pittsburgh last season.
The reality is that undrafted players have to prove their value quickly. If a team has money invested in a top draft pick, it's going to make every effort to have that investment pay off.
A first-round pick will get extra chances that aren't available to a player who wasn't drafted.
"It's definitely tougher," Michalek said. "You have to earn everything. You can't take anything for granted. If you get drafted in the first round, they're going to give you every chance.
"If you're not drafted, they have nothing to lose. They can give you the smallest contract."
Michalek went to rookie camp with the Minnesota Wild and played briefly for them in the NHL. He was then traded to Phoenix, where he established himself with five solid seasons.
It paid off when he hit the free agent market last summer, and the Penguins signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract.
"It was a lot of hard work to get here," Michalek said. "But I'm happy with the way it all worked out."
Getting to know....
The soon-to-be 27-year-old defenseman was signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent on July 7, 2008. He made his NHL debut that year on Dec. 8 and appeared in two games.
He played in 12 games last year, and has appeared in 24 so far this season.
Lovejoy is a native of New Hampshire, and played one year at Boston College and three more at Dartmouth.
*Favorite road city: "Boston."
*Favorite road building: "Montreal."
*Strongest memory from first NHL goal: "I was on for a positive goal. I passed the puck from behind the net to Alex Goligoski, and we were able to score from there. I had very little to do with the play, but I didn't get a minus."
*Favorite TV show: "Probably 'The Big Bang Theory.' It's so funny."
*Favorite vacation spot: "Hawaii. It's the only real vacation that I've ever been on."
*Place in the world would you like to visit: "I'd like to go to Bora Bora. The above-water huts, the movies with the crystal-clear water? I'd like to do that someday."
*His observation about Pittsburgh: "In the time I've been here, there's only been one snowfall that amounted to much. My wife says Pittsburgh is like a snow globe, where the snow is always just blowing around."
It's again possible to have a Penguins-themed breakfast.
Fleury Flakes, a new cereal, was introduced last week and is now available in stores.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury now becomes the third Penguins player to have his picture on a food product.
Max Talbot shared a "City of Champions" cereal box with Steelers receiver Hines Ward after the dual championships in 2009.
There's also a mustard that bears the likeness of Pascal Dupuis called "Dupuis Dijon."