NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is in Pittsburgh to take in the season-opening game between the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the visiting New York Rangers. He spoke to reporters prior to the game about the excitement of the new season, both in Pittsburgh and around the league.
The last time Penguins fans saw Bettman, he was handing the Stanley Cup to captain Sidney Crosby
following the Penguins’ 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Bettman considers tonight a homecoming of sorts for both he and the Cup.
“Tonight is a bit of a homecoming,” Bettman said. “It was 112 days ago I presented the Cup to the Penguins and Sidney Crosby
, the youngest captain to win the Cup, in Detroit. This is now the hometown celebration in the arena.”
Before heading over to Mellon Arena for the game, Bettman took a tour of the Consol Energy Center, the Penguins new home beginning in 2010-11. Bettman spoke gushingly of the Penguins’ future digs.
“This is a state-of-art first-class building,” he said. “From an NHL standpoint, teams are going to like playing there. From a Pittsburgh-standpoint, people are going to be very proud of this building, not just for hockey but for shows, concerts and you name what else.”
Among the many features of the new facility, Bettman came away most impressed with the intimate seating arrangements – Bettman said there is a great view even from the last seat in the arena – and the wide concourses that allow for fans to still view the game.
Bettman also said that he felt that the Consol Energy Center takes many of the top features seen in newer buildings such as the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota and the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
While Bettman was intent on looking forward to the beginning of the 2009-10 season and the Penguins' move to the Consol Energy Center next year, he did take a moment to reflect on Mellon Arena.
“I think ushering in the last season (at Mellon Arena) will be memorable,” Bettman said. “This is a memorable building. To have Game 1 of the last season raising the banner, that is special. I guess that banner won’t be up very long because it has to go across the street for next week.”
Bettman then had one request for the new arena:
“If the chicken fingers are as good at Consol (Energy Center), I guess that will be a plus.”