In her role as Executive Vice President for Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs for the National Hockey League, Kim Davis has spent the last 17 months traveling to different cities to collaborate with the clubs and stakeholders.
This week, Davis and her staff visited Pittsburgh, which was their 19th trip to an NHL market - and they were impressed by what they saw.
"I'm not shocked by the work that's being done here, primarily because I'm a firm believer that when there's strong leadership, that leadership is going to take on many forms in the community," said Davis, who is a highly respected leader in the corporate and philanthropic community (click here for her full background).
"In fact, Pittsburgh is using hockey as a catalyst to build strong and vibrant communities," Davis continued, "And that is only good for the sport because the stronger the community, the stronger our fandom is going to be and the stronger the growth of the sport is going to be. It's been exciting to see that."
Davis' role was created to provide clubs with consultative advisory support in a number of ways, primarily sharing best practices across all of the teams.
"That's a big part of what we see our role being at the league," Davis said. "To be a repository of best practices, to be consultative in helping the clubs with how to catalyze their communities and how to connect the dots between business, philanthropy and sport. And to be able to do that in a way that showcases all the things that a club is doing, it's exciting, and you're seeing many of the clubs feel very good about having that kind of resource."
The Penguins and Penguins Foundation are looking forward to working closely with Davis in that regard.
"I see it as a give-and-take partnership," said Tracey McCants Lewis, deputy general counsel and director of HR for the Penguins. "I think we can give them some ideas and some things that we do well here in Pittsburgh that can be used as best practices in other cities.
"Then she's had an opportunity to see what's worked in some cities and what has not, so we need to use that expertise and bring it back here to the city of Pittsburgh and make what is good into the best."
Video: NHL Executive Vice President visits Pittsburgh
Davis' visit began with a tour of UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon before she and her staff attended a dinner for community stakeholders as well as recipients of grants from the Penguins Foundation.
"I think there were people in the community that didn't know all the good the Foundation did," McCants Lewis said. "So it was an opportunity for them to hear about all of the great and wonderful things they do with youth in hockey and the things they do in the community with health and wellness initiatives."
This morning they visited the dek hockey rink that the Penguins Foundation built in Wilkinsburg as part of Project Power Play before heading to Hunt Armory, which may be the site of a new ice rink in the city.
Afterward, the group headed to the Community Empowerment Association in Homewood for a panel discussing the development in the Hill District and the economic impact that will have for the African-American community, before meeting with Mayor Bill Peduto to conclude the trip.
"We're much more than a hockey team - Pittsburgh is first," said Kevin Acklin, senior vice president and general counsel for the Penguins. "A lot of us grew up here in Pittsburgh. I grew up in South Oakland. Our CEO, David Morehouse, grew up in Beechview. And so when we come to work every day, obviously we have to pay attention to what's happening on the ice. But what really makes us proud is what we do off the ice.
"We've spent the last couple days with the team here and from the NHL and obviously the Lower Hill development on the Civic Arena site is something that we're working hard on. We're trying to do more than just build buildings. We're trying to re-invest in the neighborhood of the Hill District."
Davis believes that the impact of sports on community development can be powerful, and is looking forward to helping the Penguins drive positive social change.
"The great Nelson Mandela put it best - he said sports are really a way that bridges and brings communities together," Davis said. "It's a great neutralizer. There are very few parts of the community that don't get embraced around the idea of sport. So we are in a unique position in being able to do that. But also, sports is a business. Sports teams and leagues should be good corporate partners and good corporate citizens, so it's not surprising that's happening here in Pittsburgh. It's happening all over the footprint. But I think that you are taking it to another level in terms of using sport as a way to create economic development and empowerment. That's exciting to see."