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Bettman on hand to tout Penguins' new arena

by Mike G. Morreale
PITTSBURGH -- As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stood behind the podium inside the media room of Consol Energy Center, you could sense a feeling of pride emanating from within.
"It's a thrill to be here," Bettman said during a media gathering Thursday evening. "I was on a tour of the building when I was here over the summer for the Winter Classic and this building is every bit as magnificent as everybody has hoped it would be. This is marking the continuation of a great era for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh."
The Penguins went unbeaten in three preseason games at their new home that stands directly across the street from their former digs -- Mellon Arena. The club battled its in-state rival, the Philadelphia Flyers, in their regular-season opener on Thursday.
"I looked at the Igloo (Mellon Arena) as we were driving by, but not longingly," Bettman said. "The building served this team and the community well, but it was time to move on.
"I actually saw the building when it was a shell about a year-and-a-half ago. It was clear to me after seeing the plans that this building was going to be first-class, state of the art. But when built in the site it's in, overlooking the city with the glass hall atrium, it goes beyond hockey and we knew the city of Pittsburgh was going to be very excited about it."
The arena, of course, is a direct result of the vision of current co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. Bettman certainly didn't hide that fact, either.
"You need to give Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle the credit for sticking by this team and having the vision and foresight to know what could be there," Bettman said. "Having once endured everything that they had to go through. It's a testament to them that why we're here tonight."
Bettman was also quick to point out that the NHL never quit on the Penguins during their financial hardships and isn't about to quit on Phoenix.
"The Penguins are Exhibit A as to why we're doing what we're doing in Phoenix," he said. "Now Phoenix and Pittsburgh aren't the same cities with the same tradition, but I think we've had a pretty good history of addressing problems when a franchise has them and not running out on the city. You can point to Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Buffalo -- all teams that not only went through troubled times, but are successful at this very point in time. We always knew Pittsburgh was a hockey market."
"We know the connection we have with our fans and we don't want to run out on them," Bettman continued. "Nobody is suggesting that every city needs to run out and get a new arena. If you don't have one, there are certain consequences. The fact is, every community has to make its own decision."
The Penguins have and it appears their fans are now reaping the rewards.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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