USA Hockey Magazine

June/July 2013

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Ice – Pittsburgh Penguins h The Success Of The Penguins Is Only The Tip Of What's Happening In The Steel City hey file out of a locker room and waddle like a bunch of little penguins down the hallway that leads to the frozen expanse at the Island Sports Center in suburban Pittsburgh. Most are decked out in black or white – what else would you expect – Penguins jerseys, many adorned with the number 87 on their backs. Whether they are veterans of the ice or trying the game for the first time, these 4- to 7-year-olds share something in common with their idol, Sidney Crosby. They are all part of the on-ice revolution taking place in the Steel City. 14 June/July. 2013 Waiting at center ice is Bob Arturo, the rink's hockey director and a man who boasts that his primary job is to "sell fun." Having grown up in the area, Arturo breaks into a big smile when he sees the next generation of Pittsburgh hockey players hit the ice, literally and figuratively. "Every program we have here, from Learn to Skate and Learn to Play to house leagues and adult leagues, our No. 1 priority is making sure the kids have fun," Arturo proudly states. There's no doubt that these are fun times for everyone involved in hockey in western Pennsylvania. With due respect USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM to Warroad, Minn., and Detroit, the label of Hockeytown may soon be on the move. The area has always enjoyed a rich tradition of producing some of the best football players the game has ever known, and the Steelers have long dominated the hearts and minds of local sports fans while holding an iron-fist grip on the sports pages and nightly newscasts. But hockey in and around Pittsburgh has experienced an unprecedented growth spurt over the past decade. According to local officials, participation at the Mite age group has increased 180 percent, more than 80 percent in Squirts and 44 percent in Peewees since the 2006-07 season. Local administrators credit a number of factors, from the success of the Penguins, the "Crosby effect," his Little Penguins program and the advent of the American Development Model, which has been embraced by local hockey leaders since its inception. "We've been fortunate over the last 20 years. We went through the Mario Lemieux era, which really helped kick hockey into gear here in western Pennsylvania," says Paul Day, the Mid-American Photos By Getty Hockey Association president who has been involved with local hockey for 25 years. "Then, fortunately, seven years ago the little ping pong balls at the NHL draft fell in our favor and Sidney Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh. We're probably looking at having increased our numbers over the last five to six years probably 50 percent again." Growing the game has been a team effort between the youth hockey community and the Penguins. Take, for instance, Crosby's Little Penguins program. Each year the superstar teams up with Reebok and Dick's Sporting Goods to donate 1,000 complete sets of equipment to beginning players. When the call goes up on the Penguins' website, it takes seconds for parents to pounce, and the program quickly sells out. Soon afterward, youth hockey associations and local rinks leap into action, carving out the ice time for these budding superstars to learn the game and eventually join a league. "You couple that with what we've been able to do with our Affiliate block grant program, and it's helped us get more players on the ice," Day says. "And that's what it's all about." It wasn't like that when Derek Schooley arrived here almost Images; TSS Photography; Pittsburgh Penguins

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