In a joint announcement, USA Hockey and the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Tuesday that the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game will be hosted at the CONSOL Energy Center next September.
Pittsburgh seems like a natural fit to host this second-year event with its burgeoning hockey population and a plethora of young prospects coming out of the area. Western PA has been one of USA Hockey’s fastest growing areas in terms of hockey membership as well.
The Pens, quickly becoming one of the strongest organizations in the NHL, are also coming off of hosting the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which showed the organization’s ability to host a fairly large event and do it well.
The timing is right for the All-American Prospects Game, still in its infancy, to go to Pittsburgh. USA Hockey has hopes this event will continue to grow as both a great showcase for the players and hockey in the U.S. overall. This also allows USA Hockey to build relationships with individual NHL organizations to further its own aims.
Additionally, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review shared the following pertinent tidbit of information:
The All-American Prospect Game may not be the last marquee hockey event in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are hoping to land an NHL All-Star Game by the end of the decade and have not ruled out trying to land the 2018 World Junior Championship.
That last part should raise some eyebrows…
If Pittsburgh has hopes on landing the 2018 World Juniors, the next time the event will be held in the United States, hosting this event carries a little more significance. Though the All-American game is small potatoes compared to the WJC, Pittsburgh’s handling of this event will certainly come into play in the decision process for USA Hockey if the Penguins decide to bid on being the 2018 hosts.
USA Hockey has built good relationships with venues in the past, creating a comfort level for the future.
A big reason USA Hockey went with Buffalo for the inaugural All-American Prospects game was the comfort level the organization had with the Sabres after a highly successful World Junior Championship in 2011. USA Hockey also hosted the 2011 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony in Buffalo.
Pittsburgh is now in a position to grow a similar relationship.
The World Juniors has grown a great deal and can be a moneymaker for the host if it can sell enough tickets.
USA Hockey, in the past, has been reluctant to move the WJC too far from the Canadian border due to the event’s immense popularity up north. Fans, both Canadian and American, showed up in droves to both Grand Forks, N.D., and Buffalo, N.Y., hosts of the last two U.S.-based World Juniors in 2005 and 2011, respectively.
However, with four years for the WJC continue to grow in interest, thanks to better television exposure and coverage overall in the United States, there’s reason to believe USA Hockey could take the event further south.
Pittsburgh might be a good spot to take that next step. It’s not exactly a tough place to get to and while you might not see as many
Among the hurdles Pittsburgh would have to clear is which site would be a suitable second venue. The WJC requires one main rink for the biggest games, which would of course be the CONSOL Energy Center, but the secondary rink poses a bit more of a challenge.
There are a few options, but the best might be the soon-to-be completed Pegula Ice Arena on the campus of Penn State University (as suggested by @logan_lazor). It should be able to hold up to around 6,000 spectators, which is more than sufficient for a secondary site. State College, Pa., is only about two and a half hours from Pittsburgh.
Regina and Saksatoon, co-hosts of the 2010 WJC had a comparable distance between them. It’s just a matter of determining if they could give people enough reason to go to State College in large enough numbers to make it worth it.
There is currently talk of Canada’s next two World Juniors (2015 and 2017) being joint-hosted by Toronto and Montreal.
If that happens, would a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia WJC make sense? It’s still a ways away from the bidding process, but as the World Juniors grow, so will the potential bidders in the U.S.
The fact that American NHL teams are showing interest is a good sign of the viability of the World Junior Championship in major U.S. markets.
Should Pittsburgh knock the AAPG out of the park, they’ll certainly remain on USA Hockey’s shortlist. While a lot can happen between now and 2018, this is a very positive step forward for the city of Pittsburgh and Penguins organization if they have eyes on the WJC.