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USA Hockey impressed with Pens, Pittsburgh

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 9:04 p.m.
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BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: Seth Jones #3 of Team McClanahan skates against Team Housley at the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center on September 29, 2012 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Seth Jones

A quick glance through the Penguins' media guide indicates the majority of the team's front office hails from America.

United States hockey brass has noticed.

While at Consol Energy Center to announce that the second annual All-American Prospects game will be in Pittsburgh, high-ranking officials of USA Hockey said the Penguins' organization — specifically coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero — has been a trailblazer.

That Pittsburgh has become a booming hockey town doesn't hurt, either.

“I can't tell you enough how impressed I am with Ray, Dan and the entire organization,” said Jim Johansson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.

“There are plenty of American coaches and GMs in the NHL, and they're really a couple of guys that stick out because of how successful they've been and how supportive they've been of American hockey.”

Consol Energy Center wasn't selected as the site of this event because the Penguins are loaded with American employees, but there is little question the game, which features more than 40 of America's best prospects, will be embraced by the Penguins.

David Morehouse, president and CEO of the Penguins, made it clear that the Penguins were eager to take part in this event.

“It's another great day for hockey in Pittsburgh,” Morehouse said. “It seems like we keep having them. Pittsburgh really has become a great hockey town.”

In recent years, the Penguins have hosted a number of signature hockey events. The Winter Classic took place at Heinz Field in 2011 and was followed by other events, including the recent Three Rivers Classic and the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Whether Pittsburgh is becoming the mecca of American hockey is debatable, but there is little question it is on the rise.

“I'm surprised by it, but then, I'm also not,” Johansson said. “Pittsburgh was always a good hockey town. But what we've seen from Pittsburgh in the past few years is really pretty special. There are other areas in the United States, especially St. Louis and southern California, where hockey is growing. But Pittsburgh's growth is incredible.”

Johansson would know. He was the general manager of the American team that recently claimed the gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Four players from Pittsburgh — Vince Trocheck, Riley Barber, J.T. Miller and John Gibson — played major roles for the gold medal winners.

“Obviously, Pittsburgh played a big part in our success,” Johansson said. “And I think Pittsburgh youth hockey is going to continue to help us. Pittsburgh is here to stay.”

So, too, is the Penguins' desire to participate in American hockey events.

“When we won the gold medal at the juniors,” Johansson said, “we received a lot of texts and calls from NHL GMs, coaches and all kinds of people. The Penguins were a part of that. And we couldn't be more happy to be having this event where they play.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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