The NHL Draft may be headed back to Pittsburgh. It has been fifteen years since the city last saw the event, but all signs indicate that the 2012 hosts will be the Pittsburgh Penguins and Consol Energy Center.
The fact that Pittsburgh is one of the finalists shows how much hockey has grown in the region. In 1997, the Penguins were only five seasons removed from their latest Stanley Cup and Mario Lemieux was the league’s scoring champion. Pittsburgh was still fielding championship caliber teams and Jaromir Jagr was just beginning his NHL dominance. Holding the Draft at one of America’s up-and-coming hockey cities seemed like an easy decision–just as it does now.
Fast-forward to 2011, and the city is coming off a year in which it produced four draft picks. One of those players was selected fifteenth overall while two more heard their names called early in the second round. There are currently eight Pittsburgh natives playing in the NHL–or at least seeing ample time–and a couple more fighting their way through the minor league system. Pittsburgh even produced an Olympian for the silver medal winning U.S Team in the 2010 Winter Games. With the current crop of Penguins only two seasons removed from their own Stanley Cup, and world class players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Kris Letang residing in the ‘Burgh, hockey has perhaps never see a higher point in the Steel City. Hosting the NHL Draft would only further the region’s growing reputation as a hockey hub.