For those missing NHL, plenty of nearby opportunities exist
By Josh Yohe
Published: Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 9:24 p.m.
You aren't alone, nor are you without options.
With the NHL seemingly on the fast track to canceling a second season in less than a decade, fan unrest is reaching unprecedented levels.
Fans miss watching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin perform, miss heading Uptown for games at Consol Energy Center.
But for some fans, what truly is missing is a Saturday night hockey game. For those fans, the lockout calls for an audible, not a separation from hockey.
All across the state and the tri-state area, hockey carries on.
“I know it isn't the NHL,” said Penguins prospect Carl Sneep, who played an NHL game last season but now finds himself playing for the Penguins' ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers because of the logjam of defensemen playing at Wilkes-Barre of the AHL. “But there is still something fun about playing here, and there is still good hockey here in a good building. It's worth coming.”
For fans suffering from Penguins' withdrawal more than hockey itself, two legitimate options exist. Wheeling is an hour drive from Pittsburgh, isn't a difficult ticket to attain and is filled with players hoping to play in Pittsburgh someday.
“The atmosphere is good,” Sneep said. “People get into the games. It's been great.”
The drive to Wilkes-Barre is considerably longer — about four hours longer — but plenty of Pittsburghers already have made the trip this season. Forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Simon Despres almost are certain to land roster spots with the Penguins should an NHL season take place anytime soon.
Until then, those two, along with first-round draft picks Joe Morrow and Beau Bennett, are polishing their skills in the AHL.
“There is no shortage in talent here,” Tangradi said. “Guys like Beau and Joe are fun to watch, and they're going to be NHL players. We love seeing fans from Pittsburgh come up here.”
Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre are easy solutions for Penguins' fans to get their fix, but some other options have become fashionable.
Although fans aren't showing up in droves yet — plenty of seats usually are available — a steady flow of Pittsburghers are making their way north on Interstate 79 to Erie. After all, the player who might well become hockey's next superstar is only a two-hour drive away.
Connor McDavid, the 15-year-old wunderkind to whom Sidney Crosby compared himself in a recent interview with the Tribune-Review, has taken the Ontario Hockey League by storm.
The favorite to become the top pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, McDavid oozes star power, and a steady stream of Penguins fans can be found at each Erie home game.
“I love that I'm only two hours from Pittsburgh,” said McDavid, who idolizes Crosby. “It's a great hockey town, and I'm adjusting to life in Erie. It's been really good here. I love playing in front of our fans.”
The fans love watching McDavid, too. Even Crosby recently commented that he has watched two of McDavid's games on television and marvels at his ability to thrive in the OHL at age 15.
“I can see why people would go want to see him play,” Crosby said.
There are other options as well. Short drives to Youngstown and Johnstown provide entertaining, inexpensive evenings at the rink and some iconic settings.
“People just love hockey,” Tangradi said.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return
- Penguins notebook: Sill thrives on penalty kill
- Ex-Penguin Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return