Penguins push hard to land more than draft
Commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced Thursday that the 2012 NHL draft will be at Consol Energy Center.
Share with others:
The Penguins are pushy, and they don't care who knows it.
After all, it has brought them a perennial contender on the ice, a new arena and what appears to be an expanding string of premier events.
The latest to be announced is the 2012 NHL draft, even though it had been known for some time that the team, city and Consol Energy Center had lassoed the June event.
At a news conference to announce that the draft is coming to Consol Energy Center, Penguins president David Morehouse was among those who listed the reasons it makes sense to have the event here.
They include a huge growth in local youth hockey, the popularity of the Penguins locally and afar, the amenities that come with a new arena and the widening number of local players being drafted -- four of the top 64 this year.
But the Penguins didn't stop there. Morehouse used his few minutes at the podium to look beyond the draft and call for an NHL All-Star Game on the not-too-distant heels of the 2011 outdoor Winter Classic and the draft.
"The commissioner now knows that since we hosted the Winter Classic and [have] the draft, I'm going to be bugging him about the All-Star game soon," Morehouse said. "We're looking to get that, too, commissioner."
Gary Bettman, from the seating area, shot back, "I have no doubt."
Since the time the arena was a dusty construction site, the Penguins have said they want to bring in premier events, both publicly and behind the scenes in communication with the NHL.
"I don't know how we are relative to the other teams, but we are vocal," Morehouse said. "I don't think this year or next year, but in a few years" the All-Star game might be coming to Pittsburgh."
"David is a passionate advocate for the club and for the city of Pittsburgh and for this building," Bettman said. "He has made it known that any events that are available, we should be considering Pittsburgh.
"That's why I don't think it's a coincidence that you're seeing, in a very brief period of time, the Winter Classic -- which probably is even more coveted in some places than the All-Star game -- and the draft."
Consol Energy Center also will have early rounds of the '12 NCAA men's basketball tournament and the '13 Frozen Four, the college hockey finals.
The Penguins also have expressed interest in luring a world junior hockey championship.
Morehouse can be expected to continue to lobby for various events, sort of like the kid who sits in the back of the class waving his arm to be picked.
"No," said one NHL official. "He's like the guy in the front of the class going, 'Pick me, pick me.' "
The draft will begin June 22 with the first round in prime time, and rounds two through seven the following day. Ticket information and other details, such as ancillary events planned by the Penguins, will be announced later.
Consol Energy Center is expected to be filled with management groups from all 30 NHL teams, prospects and their families, fans and a lot of media. Penguins general manager Ray Shero called it "a hockey convention."
Morehouse said the draft will generate $9.1 million in direct spending in the city after the Winter Classic generated $22 million, justifying the use of public funds to help pay for the arena.
The city last had a draft in 1997, at the Civic Arena. That came several years into a surge of hockey interest that took hold after the arrival of Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, now a team co-owner, and has continued with center Sidney Crosby leading a star-heavy club.
The expansion and improvement in youth hockey has helped to produce recent flocks of prospects.
Still, the NHL likely wouldn't have considered awarding the draft -- and perhaps an All-Star game in the coming few seasons -- to Pittsburgh if not for the state of the art Consol Energy Center.
"You have everything you need -- you have the electrical, you have the WiFi, you have the power. The access if phenomenal," John Collins, chief operating officer of the NHL, said.
"And this has got to be one of the most beautiful arenas in the entire country. So to able to get here as much as we possibly can is a bonus for the league."
NOTE -- The Penguins, as part of Hockey Fights Cancer month, wore purple jerseys in the pregame warm-up. They will be signed and auctioned at www.nhl.com.
First Published October 28, 2011 12:00 am