Jason Brough

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  A general view of fans outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh adds second big screen TV to accommodate fans

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PITTSBURGH — Sensing an opportunity to celebrate, Penguins fans have assembled in the thousands outside Consol Energy Center to watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on a big screen TV.

Such was the fervor in this city — one that hasn’t witnessed a major-league team clinch a title at home since 1960 — that a second screen was raised in Market Square to accommodate those who couldn’t find space to watch outside the arena.

The hope now is that things don’t turn rowdy. In 2009, after the Steelers won the Super Bowl, some fans took the celebrations too far.

From KDKA-TV:

Police are already preparing for a possible celebration around town should the Penguins win Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, leaders detailed some of the safety measures that are being put into place.

Guy Costa, the city’s chief of operations, said Public Works crews began going to various parts of the city Wednesday to enforce a little-known ordinance in advance of the Pittsburgh Penguins potentially winning the Stanley Cup during the Thursday night game at CONSOL Energy Center.

Looking to head off an unruly victory celebration – assuming there is one – Costa said crews will collect abandoned furniture and empty trash containers. He’s urging businesses to do the same before Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks.

“The less fuel that’s out there, the better off we will be,” Costa said Wednesday. The city even plans to empty or lock newspaper boxes so revelers will have less fuel to set on fire.

It’s been five years since Vancouver had a Stanley Cup riot following the Canucks’ Game 7 loss to the Bruins. In that city, fans were encouraged to come downtown to watch the game on a big screen, and that’s where the trouble started.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there will be trouble here tonight. For now, it’s all fun and excitement. Hopefully it stays that way.

Hurricanes GM latest to rebut reports of possible relocation

Ron Francis
AP
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis believes the team’s future is secure in North Carolina.

Francis on Thursday became the latest high-ranking person to rebut reports the team is a candidate for relocation; currently the NHL is weighing its options for possible expansion.

“From Day 1, everybody’s said the same thing,” Francis said. “We like this market, we’ve got a great lease with the arena here and we believe in this market.”

Organization officials have maintained that the Hurricanes aren’t going anywhere, but they’ve still had to spend much of an exasperating offseason shooting down the possibility.

In a meeting with media members to discuss the NHL draft, Francis was asked about the reports and said, “It’s been going on forever, and despite everything we say to the contrary, it doesn’t seem to go away.”

He said he’s had “zero contact from (people in the) league who would tell me anything differently” about the team’s future.

The main off-the-ice item on the NHL’s agenda is whether to expand to Las Vegas and/or Quebec City, with a decision expected to be finalized June 22 when the league’s board of governors meets.

The options include putting a new club or clubs in place for the 2017-18 season, declining to expand or deferring to a later date. A city bypassed for expansion could try to court an existing team.

Peter Karmanos Jr., the team’s 73-year-old owner, announced his desire two years ago to find a local buyer who will take on part or all of his majority interest, but he wants to remain in charge as part of what he called his “succession plan.”

Questions about the Hurricanes’ financial situation arose in recent weeks after Karmanos was sued by three of his adult sons for $105 million in a Michigan court. The sons say he defaulted on the repayment of a loan he took out from a family trust and used it to support the team.

Commissioner Gary Bettman told SiriusXM Radio this week that the lawsuit “led to unfortunate speculation about the Hurricanes” that is “unfounded.”

“The fact of the matter is, that franchise has been in good hands, remains in good hands and we don’t see that changing in the near future,” Bettman said. “And frankly, we don’t see the franchise relocating anywhere.”

On the ice, it’s been a struggle lately for the Hurricanes, who reached two Stanley Cup finals and won their lone title in 2006. They’ve only made the playoffs once since then (2009) and their current seven-year drought is the longest in the Eastern Conference.

Not surprisingly, attendance fell: Carolina ranked last this season both with an average home attendance of 12,204 at the 18,680-seat PNC Arena and at just 65 percent of capacity. That was their lowest per-game average since they moved into the building for the 1999-2000 season.

But there’s tangible reason for optimism, with a roster stocked with young players making a late playoff push last season and raising expectations to make the postseason in 2016-17.

Karmanos said last July that “we’d have to be idiots to move from here,” largely because of the team’s lease for PNC Arena. It extends through 2024 and is considered one of the most team-friendly in the league.

Under the agreement, Gale Force Sports and Entertainment – which operates both the team and the arena – receives all parking and concession revenue from events at the arena except those involving North Carolina State, which plays its men’s basketball games there.

It also shares the naming rights revenue with the school and the Centennial Authority, the group responsible for maintaining and improving the arena.

Both Jeff Merritt, executive director of the Centennial Authority, and Clyde Holt, the Authority’s general counsel who negotiated the agreements, declined comment.

Related: ‘I don’t see the Hurricanes relocating, period’: Bettman

 

Penguins can clinch first Pittsburgh title at home since 1960

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It’s been over 50 years since a major-league team from Pittsburgh clinched a title at home.

But that’s exactly what the Penguins will do tonight if they can beat the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates were the last ones to do it, when Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer at Forbes Field bested the Yankees in Game 7 of that memorable World Series. The Pirates won a couple of more championships in 1971 and 1979, but both those were clinched in Baltimore.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls, but all those were played at neutral sites.

And, of course, the Penguins have won three Cups. Their first, in 1991, was hoisted in Minnesota; their second, in 1992, was clinched in Chicago; and their third, in 2009, was won in Detroit.

Not surprisingly, tickets for tonight’s game are going for big money on the secondary market. This afternoon on Stubhub, the cheapest seat was being sold for around $1,300, while a couple of club seats right behind the Penguins’ bench were going for almost $10,000 each.

“I think our players have this game in perspective,” Pens coach Mike Sullivan said this morning. “I think we’re at our best when we play with emotion and play with energy, but it certainly has to be controlled emotion and it has to be channeled the right way. I trust our leadership in the room that we’ll handle it the right way.”

The Sharks, meanwhile, would love to spoil Pittsburgh’s party and send the series back to the Bay Area.

“I think our group’s whole motivation is to make all you guys get back on a plane and go back to San Jose again,” coach Pete DeBoer told reporters. “That’s everybody’s goal. I know it’s mine.”

Related: History shows clinching won’t be easy for Penguins

Pens have ‘great opportunity’ to hoist Cup at home, but history says it won’t be easy

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  A fan holds up a replica of the Stanley Cup in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Tonight in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have an opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time in franchise history.

And after watching the first four games of this series, many sports gamblers seem convinced it’s going to happen.

At online bookmaker Bovada, the Penguins are -175 favorites to beat the Sharks in Game 5. That means, if the Pens win, it would take a $175 bet to win $100. The first two games in Pittsburgh, the odds weren’t quite so stacked in favor of the home side.

According to a Bovada spokesperson, 75 percent of the action for Game 5 has been on the Pens. The line opened at -155.

“We’ve got a great opportunity,” said Pens captain Sidney Crosby. “It hasn’t been done before here. For the support that we get here and what the fans mean to us, it’d be great. It’s going to take a big effort but it would be great if we could do it.”

If they can’t, it wouldn’t be the first time a home team failed to seal the deal in a similar situation.

Most recently, in 2012, the Kings had an opportunity to sweep Pete DeBoer’s Devils and win their first title in franchise history, only to lose Game 4, 3-1, at Staples Center. (The Kings would eventually win in six.)

More famously, in 1994, the Rangers were all ready to celebrate their first Cup since 1940, only to lose Game 5, 6-3, to the Canucks at MSG. (The Rangers would eventually win in seven.)

And, of course, there was that time in 2008 that the Red Wings could’ve clinched at Joe Louis Arena, only to lose Game 5, 4-3 in overtime, to Crosby’s Penguins. (The Wings would eventually win in six.)

So having been in the San Jose’s position, Crosby is fairly certain the Sharks won’t be an easy out tonight.

“They believe in their team,” he said. “They’re looking at it as one game and trying to get it back to San Jose, so their desperation level is going to be high. Ours has to be high as well.”

Bettman: ‘I don’t see the Hurricanes relocating, period’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP
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For not the first time, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been forced to address speculation that the Carolina Hurricanes could relocate.

The latest round of rumors came in the wake of news that ‘Canes owner Peter Karmanos was being sued by his three sons for defaulting on a loan worth more than $100 million.

In an interview with The News & Observer, Bettman called the lawsuit a family “squabble,” i.e. not evidence that Karmanos could no longer pay his bills.

“I don’t see the Hurricanes relocating, period,” Bettman said. “I think the Triangle is a terrific market. A good fan base has developed around the Hurricanes and I see the opportunity for continued growth for this franchise in the future.”

In November, Bettman had a similar message, saying, “I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina.”

But until Karmanos sells the team (as he’s been trying to do) to an ownership group that’s committed to keeping the ‘Canes in Carolina, and/or as long as Quebec City is without a team, don’t expect this relocation speculation to go away.

And that assumes the NHL will announce expansion to Las Vegas later this month. If the league decides instead to delay, many will wonder if the situation in Carolina is partly to blame, and the speculation will only intensify.