Although neither the media nor the general public were on hand to witness Penguins Hall of Fame owner Mario Lemieux and team captain Sidney Crosby
participating in the first skate on the ice at CONSOL Energy Center with a group of several young children on Tuesday afternoon, the monumental occasion was watched by a few hundred lucky observers.
When Lemieux and Crosby simultaneously hit the ice at 2 p.m. they were greeted by an audience of construction workers who had congregated to the far side of the arena’s main concourse level with cell phone cameras in hand to document this arena first.
Needless to say, having the chance to watch arguably the franchise’s two biggest icons sharing a slab of together for the first time since December of 2005, especially in such a private setting and milestone event, was something each construction worker felt privileged to be a part of.
“I mean who else would you pick to do this?” said Kurt Amundsen, one of the arena architects for Populous. “It’s pretty obvious who the best choices were. It’s nice getting to see the past, present and future of the team all wrapped up in two guys. This is a historical moment for the city and the team and it is an honor to be a part of it.”
“With something as big as this arena, and with everything Mario has done and with the excitement Crosby adds to this city, it was the perfect touch,” said George Diamond of U.S. Security Associates. “The atmosphere was great for this. Being a part of this was something to behold.”
Just watching Lemieux and Crosby do anything on an ice surface usually leaves something to behold, but Lemieux made sure to make the construction workers really feel like they were a special part of the day’s festivities almost immediately upon hitting the ice.
Lemieux skated over to the far boards closest to where the construction workers were gathered and playfully delivered the following message:
“Get back to work!”
Diamond and one of his fellow co-workers, Jordan Hall, got a real kick out of that.
“It was pretty funny when Mario came out and jokingly told all the workers to get back to work when they were all standing there,” Diamond said.
“I loved that interaction with the crowd,” Hall added. “That really helped to make us feel a part of this special moment.”
In the eyes of the men who helped create the spectacular facility that is CONSOL Energy Center, having the chance to watch Lemieux and Crosby was just another way the team has shown its appreciation for the hard work and long hours the workers have put in the past three years to make the team’s new home such a first-rate facility.
“This is just one of many great things the Penguins have done for the construction workers who made this building possible,” Diamond said. “In a couple weeks all of the men who made this arena possible are going to come in for an open house to see their completed product.”
“I just landed into town and I thought this was going to happen (Monday) night, so I was very happy to be able to be a part of it (Tuesday),” Amundsen said. “It was very cool to get to see the ice in use after a three-year project. It’s a culmination of a lot of people putting in a lot of time.”
Besides the joy each felt watching Lemieux and Crosby skate around the ice, both Hall and Amundsen believe what really made the event so special was allowing a small group of youth hockey players to join the players on the ice.
“You can just see that youth hockey means so much to the Penguins,” Amundsen said. “I think you are going to see even more of that moving forward with some of the art work, screens and some other things that are going to go in the concourse that will highlight youth hockey.”
“Just to see these two guys interact with the kids and giving back by letting them be on the ice that close to them for something like this is just awesome,” said Hall.