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Steelers exec's love for Pens is four decades deep

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Steelers exec's love for Pens is four decades deep
Steelers executive's love for Pens is four decades deep
PITTSBURGH -- Kevin Colbert is hemming and hawing, and it has nothing to do with the state of the football team he has constructed in the Steel City.
 
Colbert has been the Pittsburgh Steelers Director of Football Operations for 11 seasons, but a Pittsburgh Penguins' season ticket holder for almost four times as long. He'll be at Heinz Field for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, but he has to decide if he wants to sit in his luxury box or out in the cold with the people, his fellow Penguins' fanatics.
 
"I'll probably get as much as the experience as I can, and by saying that I am covering myself in case it's real cold," Colbert joked to NHL.com. "I'll probably end up in a box at some point, although the day before I'm going to be able to drop by the alumni game and see what that is like. We have the other rink that is going to be up by Christmas Eve outside of the stadium that we'll get some time to skate out here. I just think the whole experience is going to be awesome."
 
Colbert grew up on Pittsburgh's north side. He attended North Catholic High School before staying in town to go to Robert Morris University.
 
He's been attending Penguins' games since 1968, well before he became a two-time Super Bowl champion (2005 and 2008). He grew up idolizing Jean Pronovost, and is also of the belief that if Michel Briere wasn't tragically killed in 1970 at the age of 21 years old, "he might have been one of the greatest of all time."
 
Colbert currently gravitates toward Sidney Crosby because, well, as someone who not only works in professional sports but appreciates professionalism coming from the world's greatest athletes, "you have to respect him."
 
"I grew up playing a little hockey as well so hockey has always been a second love," he added. "I'm just a big fan."
 
And, he's a huge fan of the Winter Classic, has been since the Penguins' played in the first one four seasons ago.
 
Colbert said he can't remember another time when his city was this jacked up, this excited for a sporting event. Pittsburgh has hosted AFC Championship games and the World Series, but the hype for those builds for only days, not months.
 
The city has hosted two Major League Baseball All-Star Games, but that's an exhibition so Colbert doesn't believe it compares.
 
"No, this is something that has had a great buildup," he said. "That's why it's so great."
 
Colbert is proud to be one of the many links that connects the Penguins and Steelers, franchises that have a relationship bordering on marriage, something he called very unique in the sporting business.
 
He's close friends with Penguins GM Ray Shero, and vividly remembers the first time the two met.
 
"We sat together at a banquet," Colbert said. "That was the first time I met Ray in person and we talked about me being a Penguin fan and he actually grew up in Steeler fan even though he was in Philadelphia. That was during the Steelers' dynasty in the '70s. Joe Greene was at that same banquet and it was a thrill for Ray to meet Joe Greene."
 
It's just as much of a thrill for Colbert to host his second-favorite team playing his second-favorite sport in his favorite venue.
 
"If you're from this area you take a lot of pride in being from Pittsburgh, being from Western Pennsylvania," he said. "I think you find out universally in sports and outside of sports any time something good happens in the Pittsburgh area you're very proud and happy to be a part of it; so, obviously, this is a huge worldwide event. I don't know how many viewers it'll get to but it'll get to different countries and to have them broadcasting from your city and specifically from the Pittsburgh Steelers home field is exciting.
 
"If I wasn't associated with the Steelers I would probably still be attending the game as a fan, but it has extra meaning because it really is a unique experience for our region. We really can't wait to see the end result."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl