A recent Minnesota Wild road trip to New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania featured three big wins over Eastern Conference opponents, and helped the Wild close out the first half of the season in the top eighth of the Western Conference standings. That's what really mattered.
But the trip also featured stops in Trenton and Pittsburgh, homes of the two newest hockey palaces in the National Hockey League. Wild.com's Glen Andresen accompanied the team on this trip and took photos of the features that jumped out at him as he trolled the concourses of these shiny new venues.
Today, he shares his thoughts and photos on Pittsburgh's $321 million dollar CONSOL Energy Center, which was built in 2010 and seats a capacity crowd of 18,087 (the 87 likely is not a coincidence). Part I of the two-part series featured New Jersey's Prudential Center and can be found here
. Once again, the exterior shots are provided by a Google Image search. Trust me, the sun was not shining the entire time the team was in Pittsburgh. CONSOL Energy Center is just a slap shot away from The Igloo (Mellon Arena), which the Penguins called home until this season. Driving up, you're probably not going to be blown away. That happens once you get inside. Let's do that.
CONSOL Energy Center contains 62 suites, four party suites and 32 Loge boxes. But you have to be a pretty important person (like Kevin Gorg below) to get into the most prestigious room in the building: Suite 66. The suite belongs to owner Mario Lemieux, but is occasionally available for purchase, along with seats near the glass. The room is filled with memorabilia from Lemieux's career, which was apparently successful.
Suite 66 even has a fireplace inside, but the coolest feature is that the walls are windows that border the tunnel where the players enter the ice. On the opposite side of the walkway to the rink is this mural depicting the three Stanley Cup on-ice celebrations. No wonder it takes Penguin players so long to get to the rink. There's too much to look at. Putting high school jerseys up around the arena seems to be a common practice around the NHL. Of course, we all know where it started.
Give it to the folks in Pittsburgh on this one, though. Undoubtedly my favorite feature was this interactive touch screen. You can scroll through high school and youth jerseys, and by selecting a jersey, you can find information, updated stats and news about that team. That is sick.
I'd have to think CONSOL Energy Center is the most high-tech sporting venue in the country. This is a view of the lobby, which is packed with interactive screens, including those seen here that feature the careers of Penguin greats. Like the Prudential Center in Jersey, the Penguins put two bars at the top of the lower concourses, where you can still see the action. Eveleth might boast the world's largest hockey stick, but the world's largest goalie mask belongs to Pittsburgh.
Many say the new Pittsburgh home is very similar to Xcel Energy Center. From this angle, that certainly looks to be true. This would be considered "the worst seat in the house," which is still a great spot.Everywhere you look, there are paintings, photos and displays talking about great moments in Penguins history. Here's one that can be found on the suite level, but I found the jackpot when I saw... ...this! It's none other than former Wild fan favorite Richard Park in a tribute to the 1994-95 Pittsburgh team. Two notes on this: Park looks really young. The guy to his left looks really scary. Once again, I was able to finagle my way into a suite. I may or may not have sampled the food just to make sure the Richie Rich's in the suite weren't poisoned. For the sake of the guy that is in charge of painting the walls, I really hope Sidney Crosby never gets traded. When it comes to concessions, we all know you've got to have a local flavor. It doesn't get any more Steel City than a Primanti Bros. sandwich. You've got two huge slices of white bread, covered with meat, french fries, tomatoes and cole slaw. The EKG concession stand is conveniently right next door. Before you enter the Penguins locker room, you are greeted with this tribute to the greatest Penguins in history.