NHL merchandise event takes over Consol

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

Consol Energy Center has hosted significant events in its first three years.

The latest is an understated one, but it speaks volumes to how far the Penguins' profile has risen.

The annual “NHL Exchange” — essentially an open house for teams and retail stores to observe the latest merchandise available — started Tuesday and concludes Wednesday.

“Pittsburgh has always been a great hockey market,” said NHL executive vice president of marketing Brian Jennings. “Now that they've got this beautiful, spaceship-of-a-building, it made perfect sense to have a big event like this here.”

This is the 13th year of the event, which has moved around among NHL arenas.

Representatives from all 30 teams attended to consider items that will be sold at their respective pro shops during the upcoming season.

A few celebrities were on hand.

Joseph R. Gannascoli, who rose to fame playing Vito in “The Sopranos.” He invented a five-gallon water cooler cover that is licensed by the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, Disney, Marvel Comics, HBO and others.

“I'm a big sports fan,” he said. “I looked at the water cooler in my house and said, “Why isn't my team on it?”

Former Playboy cover girl Jaime Bergman Boreanaz, wife of actor David Boreanaz, was showcasing her new line of nail polish. All 30 NHL teams and their precise colors are represented.

“I think there is definitely a market for women besides a jersey or a T-shirt,” she said. “They're usually not flattering for women. This is a way to get girls more involved.”

Other intriguing items were on display, from an assortment of clothing apparel to a Stanley Cup replica turned into a popcorn maker.

“This event is a big deal,” Jennings said. “And Pittsburgh is a perfect place for such a thing.”

Note: Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse and Penguins broadcaster Phil Bourque held a Q&A during Tuesday's showcase. Morehouse spent much of his time talking about the Penguins' rise from a struggling, small-market franchise to its status as one of the most-respected franchises in sports. Bourque, meanwhile, lightened the mood by acknowledging — for the first time in 22 years — that he was responsible for the Stanley Cup finding its way to the bottom of Mario Lemieux's swimming pool after the Penguins won the championship in 1991.

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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