The Penguins want to bring the world to Pittsburgh.
Brass from USA Hockey were in the Steel City this week for a site visit as Pittsburgh is one of three finalists vying to host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship – a tournament has only been played in the U.S. five times.
“We obviously think that we are by far the best city to host this event,” said Penguins CEO and President David Morehouse. “We think Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to host world-class events. This is truly a world-class event.
“It’s the type of event that’s a capstone of everything we’ve done over the last 10 years in Pittsburgh to grow the game of hockey.”
Buffalo and St. Louis are the other two finalists. USA Hockey already visited Buffalo and a visit to St. Louis is scheduled for next week. A final decision on the host city will be made by the end of the year.
During this site visit, USA Hockey attended the Pens’ home opener on Tuesday against Montreal, traveled with Pens executives to Erie on Wednesday as Erie Insurance Arena – which is home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters – would be the secondary rink, and returned to Pittsburgh today.
“Our intention was to come in and get a more in-depth understanding of the facilities and the operations and logistics in hosting this event in Pittsburgh and Erie,” said Mike Bertsch, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of marketing and communications.
Twelve organizations contacted USA Hockey about hosting the event. The pool was narrowed down to five NHL clubs and from there, to three. Over the next 6-8 weeks the committee will evaluate the bids before making the final selection.
“With Pittsburgh and Erie, we’re very impressed with what we’ve seen,” Bertsch said. “Our objective was to look over the facilities and accommodations for the athletes and the presentation of the event.”
The Penguins have 17 players on their roster who have taken part in the World Junior Championship, including stars Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang for Canada, Evgeni Malkin for Russia and Phil Kessel for the United States.
“It tells you the level of player that does play in the championship,” said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations. “From the hockey perspective, how rapidly these players rise from World Juniors to being household names in the NHL – that shows you the level of play that the championships are.”
The two-and-a-half-week tournament takes place in late December/early January each year.
“USA Hockey is located on Bob Johnson Drive and I know that name is synonymous with a lot of things here,” Johannson said. “It’s a great day for hockey and we’re pleased to be here in Pittsburgh.”
Morehouse added some perspective on how big of a deal the World Junior Championship is as far as sporting events on an international scale are concerned, and what it would mean for Pittsburgh to have the chance to host this tournament.
“Pittsburgh hasn’t been considered for the Olympics. We haven’t yet hosted a Super Bowl. We’ve hosted a Stanley Cup Final, an NHL All-Star Game in the past, Major League Baseball All-Star Game,” Morehouse said. “This is as big as it gets on the international stage for us from a sporting perspective. This is truly a huge event for the region to get the eyes of the world focused on Pittsburgh.”