Rumors swirl around Pittsburgh, NHL Draft

| Monday, Aug. 8, 2011

A decision has not been finalized, but the 2012 NHL Entry Draft appears one step closer to landing in Pittsburgh for the first time in 15 years.

The Penguins already were considered the favorite to host the event when officials with Anthrocon 2012 -- the annual gathering of furries in Pittsburgh -- moved their event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to a week earlier in June than previously planned, accommodating a "rare opportunity" for the city to host an undisclosed event.

It's a real possibility that event is the NHL Draft, which likely would occur sometime during the weekend of June 22-24 at Consol Energy Center.

The draft annually is held the last full weekend before July 1. The NHL would not hold the draft the following weekend because it would conflict with start of free agency. The weekend before could feature Game 7 of NHL Finals.

Anthrocon officials said they were approached by the city to move their event to June 14-17 as opposed to the originally planned June 21-24, according to a post on the group's website.

The Tribune-Review reported in July that the Penguins were the frontrunner to host the event.

"We have submitted our application to the league," Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan said Sunday. "We're hopeful."

McMillan stressed that the NHL has not made a decision regarding where the 2012 draft will be held.

That Anthrocon 2012 officials moved their event is an encouraging sign, though.

"But we haven't been awarded anything yet," McMillan said.

Tampa also is vying for the 2012 draft.

It's possible Pittsburgh officials asked Anthrocon to move its event for two reasons:

» A large number of hotel rooms are needed for the NHL Draft for visiting fans, media, and draftees and their families. More than 500 media members and at least 3,000 out-of-town fans converged on the Twin Cities during this year's draft in St. Paul, Minn. Given the Penguins' plans, a draft here likely would bring even more fans.

» The Penguins would like to turn draft week into a summer hockey festival, similar to what they did during the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The convention center likely would be used in some capacity, explaining why the Anthrocon gathering would need to be moved.

The Penguins seem optimistic the draft is returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since 1997. The NHL prefers to have the draft in locations that are considered reasonable for those involved. A significant chunk of drafted players come from Ontario, which is close enough to Pittsburgh that most players and their families can drive.

Tampa would be a more difficult commute for players from Canada, New England and the Midwest.

The NHL does not name draft cities at the same time every year, so it's unknown when a final decision will be made.

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