Brodeur, MacInnis lead youth hockey clinics
Martin Brodeur, the NHL's all-time leader in wins by a goaltender, and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis were on hand at the Rostraver Ice Garden on Sunday to lead a youth clinic.
The two represented the St. Louis Blues, who will play the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) after playing a preseason game at home Saturday night.
MacInnis, the senior adviser to general manager Doug Armstrong, and Brodeur, the assistant GM, laced up their skates to give some pointers and lessons to kids from 8 to 14 years old.
"You see the growth of our sport, coming to these small communities throughout the U.S. and Canada and you see that our sport is really healthy," Brodeur said of the experience. "Not just boys, there were a lot of girls out there, and they were really skilled and want to learn. It's always something special for these kids to encounter people who played the game."
Brodeur, who had 691 wins in 22 seasons, mostly with the New Jersey Devils, won three games with the Blues during the 2014-15 season before retiring Jan. 29, 2015. He was named assistant GM a few months later.
His father, Denis, was a photographer for the Montreal Canadiens, so Brodeur knows what it's like to be a young kid around your idols.
"This was not really accessible to us when we were young," Brodeur said. "I think the NHL's grown as far as how they get into the communities and get people to be part of the sport. I was lucky because of my dad, I got to meet a lot of the guys on the Montreal Canadiens, but these events like this are great."
MacInnis, who played the final eight of his 23 NHL seasons with the Blues from 1994-2003, had 1,274 points (340 goals, 934 assists) in 1,416 games. He won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy (31 points in 22 games), had his No. 2 retired by the Blues in 2006 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
"We are trying to continue to grow the game," MacInnis said. "All the guys that were in the League and who are retired now are putting in a tremendous amount of effort back in trying to grow the sport in different areas of the country. Glad to help out.
"I remember growing up, I don't think I ever saw an NHL player until I played in the League. You always think these guys are living on a different planet but it's so cool to see the smiles on their faces and they're asking you questions."
The Blues flew in Sunday morning following a 4-0 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz , Paul Stastny , Brayden Schenn , defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and goalie Carter Hutton are among the Blues players who are scheduled to participate in the game. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be in the lineup for Pittsburgh.
Crosby set to play in Hockeyville USA game Sunday
Sidney Crosby will be in the lineup for the Penguins for the Hockeyville USA game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
After practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Crosby said it will be a special experience to play in the game. The center didn't play two years ago when the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning played at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnston, Pennsylvania, the initial Hockeyville USA winner in 2015.
"It's been a while, but I think it will be cool," Crosby said of playing in a smaller arena. "I think it will be great for the fans and for us. I'm sure it will be a little bit of a reminder of how games used to be in bantam and peewee and all those times when you had those small rinks. I think it's great to do that."
The 20-man lineup released by the Penguins after practice includes forwards Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, defensemen Kris Letang and Justin Schultz, and goaltender Matt Murray.
The rink at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex seats 1,500, so there will be an intimate feel for the fans who come out to see the Penguins play the Blues, who will fly in for the game after playing the Dallas Stars in St. Louis on Saturday.
"Having everyone up close and having all the attention around it, I think people get excited for it," Crosby said. "It's a little more intimate for everybody. You see the setup and it looks like an everyday rink and now there's stands for cameras. Even us, we don't see that stuff up close when it's in the big-game rink, so it's neat to see that."
-- NHL.com correspondent Wes Crosby contributed to this item
Parade, youth game, fun fair highlight festivities
The weekend festivities continued in Belle Vernon on Saturday, beginning in the morning with a parade to celebrate the community with hundreds of people watching as sponsors, members of the local organizing committee and players from various hockey teams in the area marched down the streets.
Later in the afternoon, there was a youth hockey game at Rostraver Ice Garden with players ages 12-14 from the Mon Valley Thunder participating.
"My goal is to make it to the NHL," Colby Bilski said after he was named star of the game.
It had a Penguins feel, with familiar faces doing their normal jobs, including mascot Iceburgh, anthem singer Jeff Jimerson, and PA announcer Ryan Miller. The Penguins' goal horn was used each time someone scored.
"I've only been here an hour and a half and I've met a lot of really nice people who are excited," said Jimerson, who has sung the national anthem at Penguins games since 1991. "I think it's awesome what the NHL is doing with Kraft Hockeyville to help promote hockey at the base level, that's where it starts. Every NHL [player] started in a rink like this, so it's pretty cool."
Following the game, the players and their families, as well as people in the community who stopped by the rink, took part shooting pucks at a target, taking pictures with the Kraft Hockeyville Trophy, purchasing merchandise and donating to local teams and organizations.
On Sunday morning, Penguins players who are not participating in the game will take part in a red carpet arrival before a practice at Rostraver Ice Garden with fans in attendance.
"A lot of them are huge hockey fans that maybe don't get to make it to Pittsburgh to see the games, or with the costs maybe they can't afford to go," Jimerson said. "Tomorrow they will have the Penguins up here close and personal to do the practice, which will be exciting."
Rostraver Ice Garden owner grateful for support
Jim Murphy has owned the Rostraver Ice Garden since 1992, almost half of its existence. The arena was close to being demolished seven years ago after a snowstorm caved in the roof, but Murphy wasn't going to let that happen.
"I could've walked away and taken the insurance money when the roof collapsed in 2010, but I didn't do that because I love the kids and the community," he said Friday at a gala to raise money for the community. "I invested back in the community and even went into debt personally and took out a big mortgage to be able to refurbish [the Ice Garden] and put it back in business."
It took eight months for the rink to reopen following the damage, and it will now continue to thrive thanks to the $150,000 donation by Kraft and the outpouring of support in the Belle Vernon area.
"The enhancements that we are going to have from this grant, I probably couldn't have even done over a three or four-year period," Murphy said. "Every year, I dedicate so much of our profit to enhancements and I couldn't have done this without this grant."
Some enhancements include new LED lights, locker room renovations, protective netting for fans, new piping under the floor and for the compressors and an upgrade to the cooling system. Not everything has been finished yet but there is a noticeable change at the rink which is adorned with the Kraft Hockeyville USA logo at center ice and will host a Pittsburgh Penguins practice session on Sunday morning, prior to the game at night.
"We are probably the oldest rink in Western Pennsylvania," Murphy said. "We were built in 1965, so we're 52 years old. This has enabled us to probably be around for another 15 years."
Murphy noted the Penguins once practiced in the rink before he owned it and said it's nice for them to return, at least for one day, after all those years.
"We were there for the Penguins in the 1970s when they didn't have a place to go for a while," he said, "and they're back for us now when we need them. I think it's a great thing."
Kennedy recalls Cup win, praises Pittsburgh's passion
Forward Tyler Kennedy played six of his nine NHL seasons with the Penguins and said some of his best memories, which include winning the Stanley Cup, came in Pittsburgh.
"It's amazing to be here," Kennedy said Friday at the Giant Eagle store in Belle Vernon, where he greeted fans, took pictures and signed autographs. "You see how passionate hockey is in Pittsburgh and it's growing every day. So many kids on the ice getting better and better.
"I did a learn-to-play event at [Rostraver Ice Garden] and it reminded me of being back home in (Ontario) Canada. It was a smaller rink but you could tell there were a lot of memories, and a lot of kids learning how to get better. It doesn't matter what kind of rink it is. As long as there is ice and kids want to get better, they'll get better."
Kennedy, 31, was in the NHL from 2007-16, and made the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years with the Penguins, winning it in 2009 when Pittsburgh defeated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
During that championship season, he had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 67 regular-season games and had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had two points, including the game-winning goal, in Game 6 of the Final.
"It was a young team that just kind of came together," Kennedy said. "It was kind of a whirlwind. We did what we had to to win and it was one of those things where I look back and am grateful for [it]."
He still keeps in touch with several players on that team including forward Jordan Staal (now with the Carolina Hurricanes) and current Penguins center Sidney Crosby.
"I text Sid once in a while and whenever I do, he texts me right back," Kennedy said. "It just shows you how good of a captain he is, how good of a person he is. I can't believe how down-to-earth he is."
Video: Kennedy meets fans & signs autographs at Giant Eagle
Former Penguins forward Kennedy to greet fans
The festivities in Belle Vernon and at the Rostraver Ice Garden got off to a good start on Thursday with the Stanley Cup making the rounds. On Friday, former NHL forward Tyler Kennedy, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, will be on hand with Iceburgh, the team mascot, to great fans at the Giant Eagle store in Belle Vernon.
"The response from the Belle Vernon community has been incredible," Marisa Kolar, Marketing Lead for Kraft Hockeyville said. "Their passion and spirit for hockey is already on full display. The fact that we had folks lining up outside the Rostraver Ice Garden since 6 a.m. [Monday] for the opportunity to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup speaks to the excitement and enthusiasm of this community."
On Saturday, there will be a parade from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. followed by a Penguins youth game with kids ages 12-14 at the Ice Garden. Later in the afternoon, there will be a Fun Fair with various giveaways and activities.
Kraft thrilled with Hockeyville response in third year
Marquette, Michigan, beat out more than 1,000 communities last year to win the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA. This year, the number of entrants grew by almost 30 percent.
"We saw an incredible response to the program this year, as Belle Vernon was just one of the more than 1,300 communities across the country that submitted stories, accounting for nearly 73 percent of rinks nationwide," Kolar said. "We narrow the nominees down to the final 10 based on a number of factors. Most importantly, we are looking for communities that embody the passion and spirit of hockey. We carefully review each of the stories submitted during the nomination process to identify local rinks and communities that display the pride and enthusiasm that embodies Kraft Hockeyville USA."
Since the first Hockeyville Canada in 2006, Kraft has positively impacted more than 80 communities with over $3 million in arena upgrades across Canada and the United States.
"Many local rinks across the U.S. and Canada are in desperate need of repairs or upgrades," Kolar said. "Kraft Hockeyville USA is honored that we've been able to reinvigorate and recognize so many passionate hockey communities over the years, and we couldn't be more excited to add Rostraver Ice Garden and Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania to the list and celebrate with them this weekend."
Stanley Cup heads to California University
The students at California University in California, Pennsylvania, got a treat Thursday when the Stanley Cup came to their school.
Police and firemen escorted the Cup to the Convocation Center, where students from several of the university's sports teams took pictures with the trophy and Penguins mascot, Iceberg.
The Cup made an appearance during Rise Against Hunger, a program started by Kraft Heinz in 1998 that donates meals to people in need. Students spent several hours packaging nutritious meals for the program, which has donated more than 167 million meals since 2013.
"Nearly 300 local students participated in today's Rise Against Hunger event, teaming up to package more than 60,000 hunger relief meals for those in need in support of the Kraft Heinz mission to eliminate global hunger," said Marisa Kolar, Marketing Lead for Kraft Hockeyville.
The next stop for the Cup was a public viewing at Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon, where hundreds lined up for their chance to see the trophy.
Community member explains winning essay
Chris Kostick knew his beloved Rostraver Ice Garden needed repairs and did something about it. He wrote an essay explaining why the rink should be chosen as finalist by Kraft for Hockeyville USA before it made the final round and was voted the winner.
"I wrote the essay because I volunteer for Cal U's hockey club as their equipment manager, so I was at the rink 4-5 nights a week during the season and I saw a lot of what was going on there," Kostick, 24, said Thursday. "I knew the story of the roof collapse (after a snowstorm in 2010) and how after that, the community kind of came together to put the rink back together to what it is now. That kind of inspired me, I knew the rink needed help and could use the prize money and the community really deserves it."
The Rostraver Ice Garden opened in 1965 and the Penguins practiced there for several years. They'll do that again on Sunday, prior to the game in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.
"Seeing the Penguins on our home rink will be really cool," Kostick said. "I know they did hold training camp there in the 1970's, so to come back to their roots and also see high-profile hockey players on the ice that my team plays on and that I'm on every night is cool."
Kostick said he was inspired by a town close by, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which won the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA in 2015, and hosted a preseason game between the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.
"I followed their story and that's how I became aware of it. So I figured then I may as well give it a shot and write a nomination for our rink."
In between pictures and interviews, Kostick took time to soak it all in.
"As a hockey fan and someone that's working in hockey right now, it's pretty surreal to be right next to the ultimate prize in the whole world of the sport really," he said.