Pens CEO: 'Promise is to do whatever we can to win'
David Morehouse is trying to feel all of the love Pittsburghers have shown the Penguins since the NHL lockout ended.
Recently a father for the fourth time, the Penguins CEO was one of about 958,000 regional residents who combined to watch TV broadcasts of the Penguins' wins at Philadelphia and New York over the weekend. The NBC broadcast Saturday drew a 19.4 local Nielsen rating, second best for a regular-season game in franchise history. Root Sports Pittsburgh's broadcast of the Sunday night game, which aired opposite the AFC Championship Game, was good for fifth best with a 12.6 local Nielsen rating.
Morehouse found some free time Tuesday to discuss a variety of Penguins-related topics:
Q: You and co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle issued a joint public apology the day after the lockout officially ended. Why, when it was known the Penguins tried to end the lockout in December?
A: It was important because it wasn't contrived. We said we we're sorry because we were sorry. It was not something we wanted to go through, not something we wanted our fans to go through. We thought we owed an apology.
Q: What did you take away from the roughly 18,000-20,000 who packed Consol Energy Center for the Black & Gold scrimmage last week?
A: I was surprised with how young everybody was. It shouldn't be surprising because, when we look at our research, that is a group we target and the young fans often can't get tickets because of the (six-year) sellout streak. They all had Penguins stuff on, I noticed that. We see the numbers about our merchandise being near the top, but seeing everybody around town with Penguins stuff is a case of the numbers we see every day starting to bear out.
Q: Market research company Scarborough reported the Penguins' regional fan base has doubled from 516,000 (2005) to 1,304,000 (2012). When does the popularity of this team plateau?
A: We have a long way to go. We can still do a lot in Pittsburgh, on the ice, and more broadly, with the NHL. One goal would be working together with other teams to grow the game and to continue to try and build upon this. The league has grown tremendously since 2005, but there is a lot more room with building hockey, not just the NHL.
Q: Does the franchise post-lockout promise include keeping MVP Evgeni Malkin even though there is $104.4 million guaranteed to captain Sidney Crosby?
A: We'll do whatever we can to keep him. The promise is to do whatever we can to win the championship. That's a financial commitment to keeping our players and also bringing the best people in to run the organization. It's not just spending money; it's creating the atmosphere that fosters a championship team and providing the resources, structure and philosophy. The plan is to keep Geno and Sid here for as long as they play in the NHL.