On October 27th, in the center of downtown Pittsburgh, at the CONSOL Energy Center, the worst kept secret in hockey was finally revealed. The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on the weekend of June 22nd.
The first round will take place on Friday, June 22nd and will start 7pm EST. Rounds two through seven will occur the following day, starting at 10am. It will be the second NHL Entry Draft Pittsburgh has hosted, the first held in 1997 at the Penguins old building, the Civic Arena.
Though Pittsburgh can trace it’s NHL roots to the Pittsburgh Pirates of the 1920s, the sport has proliferated over the last three decades, a proliferation that started when Mario Lemieux was drafted in 1984 and came to a head in 2011 when the city of Pittsburgh not only hosted the 2011 Winter Classic, but also saw four locally trained players selected in the first three rounds of the 2011 NHL Draft.
"Before Mario Lemieux was drafted in 1984, there were six indoor rinks in the greater Pittsburgh area, now there are 24," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at the news conference on Thursday. "In just the past six years since the drafting of Sidney Crosby, local amateur hockey participation has increased by 26 percent. Participation among players in the age group between five and eight years old has increased 61 percent. It’s worth noting that in the past three years, USA Hockey has seen a 17 percent increase in the number of Pittsburgh area players, in the eight in under age group, from just under 90,000, to a record number of more than 105,000. Last season, USA Hockey registration in the Pittsburgh area had grown at every age level, ages four through 13. Today there are 27 Pittsburgh youth hockey alumni playing NCAA Division 1 Men’s hockey and five are playing NCAA Division 1 Women’s hockey. So the area’s impact on our draft is remarkable as is the impact of the draft on our league."
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero described the event as a "hockey convention".
"What you are going to see here are future star players. You’re going to see broadcasters, general managers, and scouts." Shero said. "It’s also a great day for the fans. They can see the next up-and-coming players and interact with a lot of different people."
Shero was quick to point out how the event is particularly special for one group of people.
"There will be over 350 scouts in attendance and these guys work over 363 days a year over these two days, so it’s a very important time for the scouting staffs around the NHL."
An Assistant GM for the Nashville Predators from 1998 to 2006 before he became the GM of the Penguins, Shero has a particular appreciation for the drafting process.
"The draft of the Pittsburgh Penguins, no secret, has really been a franchise saver. In 1984 with Mario Lemieux being drafted and of course 2005 with Sidney Crosby. But also, in addition to our first round picks like Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, Marc-Andre Fleury, this is a two day draft," Shero said. "I look back on the ’05 draft, when Sidney Crosby was drafted first overall, later that day, if anyone stuck around long enough, the last pick in the NHL Entry Draft was a guy named Patric Hornqvist. The last pick in the seventh round and two years ago he scored 30 goals. So it’s an exciting two days for everybody."