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Shero psyched to bring Draft to Pittsburgh

Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 7:39 PM / NHL Insider

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Shero psyched to bring Draft to Pittsburgh
Penguins GM Ray Shero, speaking on the "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman," discussed the awarding of the 2012 NHL Draft to Pittsburgh.
Ray Shero has been part of a franchise that hosted an NHL Draft before, as an assistant general manager to David Poile with the Nashville Predators in 2003.

Shero, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2006, will get that opportunity again this coming June, as the announcement was made Thursday that the Consol Energy Center will play host to the 2012 Draft.

Shero and team president David Morehouse appeared as guests on Thursday night's "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman" to discuss perhaps the biggest day in Pittsburgh sports since the Penguins hosted the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field on Jan. 1.

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"Just a fantastic experience," Shero said of his Nashville experience in 2003, a draft that produced one of the top crops of first-rounders in the League's history. "I really think that as a hockey operations guy, you're so into the players and your rankings and all that stuff, what I did find in Nashville, it was a very successful draft, the building was packed, and people look back, scouts look back to this day and say, 'Wow, what a great time that was. They did a great job.' It put Nashville on the map and then the following year the team made the playoffs.

"Same thing we want to have happen here in terms of people looking back five, 10, 15 years and saying 'it was a great draft, they did a great job with it, we had a wonderful time,' really enjoyed themselves, and that's the experience we're going to be looking for because there's going to be a host of things going on that week in Pittsburgh that everybody's going to be able to enjoy, and so I think it's going to be a great event."

Shero, whose father Fred enjoyed a notable and successful career as a player, coach and general manager, was once an NHL draft pick himself -- taken in the 11th round by the Los Angeles Kings in 1982, though he never played in the League. Morehouse took a bit longer to wind up in the hockey world, working on presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton and spending many years in Washington working at the White House and Pentagon, but he was equally excited at what the Draft coming back to Pittsburgh for the first time in 17 years means to the city.

"The state of hockey in Pittsburgh is excellent," Morehouse said. "Youth hockey in particular has gone through a dramatic expansion. From 1984, when Mario [Lemieux] first came to town, there were six rinks in the area. There are now 33 sheets, 24 rinks, over 50 in the tri-state area, and since Sid [Crosby] and [Evgeni] Malkin and some of the other great young players we have came aboard, it's expanded even more."

Of course, after Lemieux led the Penguins to consecutive titles in 1991 and 1992, Crosby and Malkin brought the Stanley Cup back to the Steel City in 2009 with a thrilling seven-game win over the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. A little over a year later, the team moved into the brand-new Consol Energy Center, a building Morehouse said has does wonders for the area.

"We're now in the building for a little over a year. It's a great hockey venue, it's a great concert venue, and we've been successful at bringing attractions to Pittsburgh because of the arena, like the NHL Draft, like the NCAA basketball second- and third-round in 2012 and the Frozen Four in 2013," he said.

Additionally, Morehouse talked about the importance of high-profile events like the Winter Classic and NHL Draft coming to Pittsburgh.

"Having the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh was a great validation of all the work we've done and the League has done in Pittsburgh to grow hockey as a brand," he said. "And I think having the Winter Classic, we turned it into a week-long event with a week's full of hockey events. People took notice in Pittsburgh, that it's not just a football town -- it's a hockey town and a football town.

"We're now in the building for a little over a year. It's a great hockey venue, it's a great concert venue, and we've been successful at bringing attractions to Pittsburgh because of the arena, like the NHL Draft, like the NCAA basketball second- and third-round in 2012 and the Frozen Four in 2013." -- David Morehouse
"I think bringing the Draft into Consol Energy Center, as we promised when we were trying to make the arguments for the Penguins staying in Pittsburgh and for the arena and for public financing of the arena, is the fulfillment of a promise that we would be able to bring big events here. And it's great for young kids in Pittsburgh to see the Draft -- especially since last year we had four kids taken in the first 63 picks from Pittsburgh. The talent level in Pittsburgh has increased tremendously as the volume of hockey players has increased."

The Penguins will try to continue doing their part in keeping Pittsburgh a hockey town by maintaining their success of the past several years on the ice. They entered Thursday's game against the New York Islanders leading the Eastern Conference in points (16) with a 7-2-2 record, despite the fact they're still waiting to get Crosby back as he works his way into game shape from a concussion and Malkin has been in and out of the lineup.

"I think the team is well-coached, very well-coached at the NHL and AHL level," Shero said. "Our call-up players are playing the same system. We have the NHL coach of the year in Dan Bylsma last year, but we also had the AHL coach of the year in John Hynes, the youngest coach in the American League."
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