Penguins make a bid to host 2012 NHL draft

| Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pittsburgh made its mark last month at the NHL Entry Draft by producing four of the first 64 prospects selected at the two-day event at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

The city actually might be marked for the 2012 NHL Draft, though speculation on popular social-media platforms that the event is a lock to land at Consol Energy Center is inaccurate, according to the league.

"(The Penguins are) one of the teams in (the) 2012 draft bid process," said Jamey Horan, the NHL's vice president of player development and event communications. "But no decision has been made yet."

There is no immediate timetable to announce a destination for the next NHL Draft, which is convened annually in late June. The Tampa Bay Lightning also is a leading contender to host the event.

The Penguins have not hosted the NHL Draft since 1997 at Civic Arena.

If their bid for this draft is selected, the event would be at Consol Energy Center, which opened to rave reviews last season and also will play host to the regional rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March.

"We've said since the beginning of the new arena process that our goal is to bring big NHL events like the draft and All-Star Game to Pittsburgh," said Tom McMillan, Penguins vice president of communications. "We know Pittsburgh has become a preeminent hockey city in the U.S. — and that was evident by the 2011 Winter Classic being probably the most successful ever — and we're hopeful of bringing events like this to the city.

"We weren't going to get the draft at the Civic Arena. Consol Energy Center puts us in play for all major events."

Consol Energy Center also will host the "Frozen Four" — the semifinals and final of the NCAA men's ice hockey tournament — in 2013.

The financial impact of an NHL Draft for Pittsburgh could be lucrative. Minnesota public officials projected $10 million in revenue for the St. Paul/Minneapolis region because of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Officials for Visit Pittsburgh, the region's tourism agency, declined comment.

The city is no stranger to welcoming significant NHL events. Six Stanley Cup Final games were played at Civic Arena in 2008 and '09, but hockey-operations management, coaches and players were responsible for those games.

From an events standpoint, the organization's real coup was landing the '11 Classic, which attracted 68,111 fans to Heinz Field on New Year's Day and was preceded by a week-long winter carnival on the North Shore.

A similar summer-themed carnival likely would be part of a draft at Consol Energy Center, where this season, a statue of franchise legend and majority co-owner Mario Lemieux is expected to be unveiled outside the Trib Total Media gate.

The outdoor Classic, played at night for the first time because of inclement weather during the day, attracted surprisingly high prime-time ratings (4.65 million average viewers) and a win of the coveted 18-to-49 demographic for NBC, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The Penguins' popularity is at an all-time high in the area. Regional broadcast ratings for their games have topped US-based teams for the past four years, and the club has played before home sellout crowds dating to '07. Also, the team has been ranked in the top 10 of the past three ESPN Ultimate Standings, a yearly ranking of the top professional sports franchises using including the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB.

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