> The Penguins had a goal: to build the NHL’s best locker room. According to the players, they did.
> The locker room is now an oval as opposed to a rectangle.
> A vaunted ceiling inside the locker room is reminiscent of the Civic Arena roof.
> Head coach Dan Bylsma requested that a mural dedicated to the team’s Hall of Fame be inserted above the player stalls.
> Thanks to the oval-shaped room the seating chart had to change somewhat.
> Equipment manager Dana Heinze made sure some of elements from the Civic Arena locker room were brought across the street to CONSOL.
In the National Hockey League, nothing is more sacred than the player’s locker room. It’s the area where they spend their most time and do the most bonding.
With that thought in mind, the Penguins’ brain trust in charge with building CONSOL Energy Center – co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, former CEO Ken Sawyer, current CEO and president David Morehouse and general manager Ray Shero – set out to design what they hoped would be the pre-eminent NHL locker room.
Now that construction is complete and training camp has begun, the players are happy to report that management reached its goal because the team absolutely loves the room.
“There is nothing that I would change about this room,” Maxime Talbot said. “Everything that went into it was well thought out. It was designed with top-notch quality. They really put a lot of time and money into this room. It is great for us.”
“I think they did a great job,” Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “I like the oval so that everybody can see everybody. And we have more room. I think everything is comfortable.”
Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze and head athletic trainer Chris Stewart were in charge of working with the building’s architects to design the locker room. Heinze and Stewart spent two seasons taking pictures and gathering research from opposing locker rooms across the NHL.
Their findings from that research is what led to the team switching from the tight-spaced, rectangular room at the Civic Arena to the wide-open, oval-shaped room at CONSOL Energy Center.
“An oval is nice because there are no corners and the players are all together,” Heinze said. “The way I look at our locker room where it’s positioned within the facility, it’s the heart of the building, so it’s appropriate the way it is designed.”
Besides all of the open space the oval shape creates, perhaps the second most-striking quality of the locker room is the vaunted ceiling that contains paneling which makes it very reminiscent of the Civic Arena roof.
Many of the players have speculated during the first week of training camp that this sort of ‘Civic Arena tribute’ was planned, but Heinze said it was actually something the architects came up with.VIEW THE LOCKER ROOM PHOTO GALLERY: Inside The Penguins Locker Room
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“When we sat down and gave the designers direction, my only wish was for a vaulted ceiling,” Heinze said. “I’m sure that during the design stage they took the idea of stealing that dome look to kind of give this place an old-school feel. I’m glad we did that.”
Speaking of old school, the Penguins made sure not to neglect their rich history within the locker room. Along the wall atop the player stalls is a mural dedicated to the Penguins Hall of Fame, featuring legends such as Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. Its prominent placement was actually the brain child of Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.
“We wanted a tribute somewhere in the player’s area and he thought it would be great to have that in the locker room itself,” Heinze said. “I think the graphic designers really nailed the design. It has that ‘wow factor.’ That’s pretty special to come in and see that.”
Unlike the Civic Arena, the locker room at CONSOL will not have a tribute stall dedicated to Lemieux next to Sidney Crosby
(although there is a symbolic open locker), but Lemieux’s spot on the mural was strategically placed near Crosby’s seat.
“At the Civic Arena, we all know the stall on the end was Mario’s stall,” Heinze said. “It was a pretty big deal to keep Mario’s name up there. We had to ask for his permission. He was gracious enough to let us do that. When a hockey player came in and saw that Mario stall, they got excited.
|Here is a sneak peak inside the locker of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. |
“When we met with the designer of the Penguins Hall of Fame, I did mention that Sid was sitting in that area and it would be neat if we had Mario’s picture close by. I think there is some correlation to Mario being close to Sid, which is fun. Those two have a nice little tradition together.”
While Lemieux won’t have a tribute directly inside the locker room, there will be a Mario Lemieux tribute wall located just outside the doors which connect the locker room to the player’s lounge.
“Mario was arguably the greatest hockey player of all-time,” Heinze said. “How could you not get excited to have a guy like him represented in your locker room? This is Sidney and these young guys’ team, but everyone still gets excited to pay respect to Mario. I don’t know if he knows about this yet. He might be shocked, but I think our guys are going to be psyched about this.”
Because the locker room is now an oval as opposed to a rectangle, Heinze had to make some adjustments as he set up the locker room seating chart.
For the most part, he was able to keep things status quo, with each of the goaltenders taking up the larger end lockers and the defensemen manning the right side and the forwards the left. However, the new shape of the room and a couple of requests meant some guys saw their seats shifted somewhat.
“Sid asked to be in the middle,” Heinze said. “He didn’t request the open stall, but he did ask that Matt Cooke
and Maxime Talbot sit next to him on either side. That’s how it was at the old building.
“Once I did that, I still had Jordan Staal
, Tyler Kennedy
and Eric Godard from the back wall (at the Civic Arena), so we incorporated them on the left-wall. That actually worked out good because Staalsy wanted to sit in the center of one of those side walls. Now Staal and Malkin sit together, and ‘Geno’ really likes that.”
While the size, shape and some of the seating arrangements have changed slightly at CONSOL Energy Center, some of the small details of the room haven’t differed much from the Civic Arena.
|Even at CONSOL Energy Center it will always be "A Great Day For Hockey." |
Lining the wall above the Hall of Fame mural are the three core words Ray Shero uses as the foundation of the team – accountability, work ethic and passion. In the heart of the locker room is a large Penguins logo – although one bonus to the larger room is stepping on the logo (a no-no) won’t be as much of an issue.
Also making the trip across Centre Avenue is the Penguins’ puck board. Anytime the Penguins pick up a victory they add a game puck to the board, with Bylsma attaching the name of the ‘player of the game’ below it. Right now this board has the pucks from last season, but it will soon be cleared to reflect the start of this year.
Finally, when the players leave the locker room and head to the runway to pick up their sticks, the last thing they will see before taking the ice is ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson’s popular message: “It’s A Great Day For Hockey!”
“I think that is an important saying for the organization,” Heinze said. “I felt it was important that we brought that over from Civic Arena. That’s a statement that I believe still gets you fired up to play hockey every time you see it. It’s really the perfect spot.”
And a fitting way to complete a perfect locker room.