Sidney Crosby firmly believes the biggest of Mario Lemieux’s franchise records are safe.
Still, the Penguins are hopeful Crosby gets the opportunity to match at least one of Lemieux’s signature accomplishments: winning the MVP of an NHL All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve had discussions with the league about bringing the All-Star Game here,” said Kevin Acklin, Penguins president of business operations.
Acklin would not divulge the full details of those discussions, specifically if the Penguins have officially bid for a future All-Star Game and/or if procuring one for PPG Paints Arena was a precondition of the club’s willingness to participate as the road team in the 2023 Winter Classic against the Bruins at Fenway Park in Boston.
Coincidentally, Fenway Park’s tenant, MLB’s Red Sox, are, along with English football’s Liverpool, part of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), which purchased the Penguins in November 2021.
The Mario Lemieux statue outside PPG Paints Arena.
Landing an All-Star Game would likely boost season-ticket sales, which have taken a slight hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Penguins’ franchise-record home sellout streak ended early this past season.
For the 2016-17 season the Penguins averaged 19,763 fans, the most in franchise history.
Acklin, who said he snuck into the 1990 All-Star Game at Civic Arena while attending college, also said the Penguins are re-pricing certain sections of PPG Paints Arena for games next season. He said the pricing will be based off data collected in-house and also from the secondary market.
“This summer, our season ticket holder base for the first time, it led to about 70 percent of the seats being rescaled and actually reduced,” Acklin said.
The Penguins hired Oak View Group to manage PPG Paints Arena. The sides are hopeful of staging events at the arena for at least 300 days/nights annually.
Upgrades to PPG Paints Arena are already planned, including an events-level club that Acklin said will bring fans closer in proximity to players and a Hall of Fame, the details of which are not yet settled.
The Hall of Fame, which is expected to include virtual elements in addition to having a physical presence at the arena, would include Lemieux as part of its charter class. Though still a minority owner with a half-percentage share, Lemieux remains the Penguins’ chairman.
He is also widely considered the greatest player in franchise history — a six-time scoring champion, three-time winner of the Hart Trophy, and the playoffs MVP for the Penguins’ Stanley Cup clubs in 1991 and 1992.
Lemieux is the Penguins’ leader in goals, assists and points. He also dominated All-Star games, winning the third of his MVPs in front of a raucous, partisan Pittsburgh crowd in 1990.
The Penguins would like to provide a similar setting for Crosby, a second only to Lemieux for most team records and captain of their Cup clubs in 2009, 2016 and 2017. Crosby has three years remaining on his contract and has not said if he prefers to play after it expires.
If Crosby’s next three seasons are his last, the Penguins will have only two opportunities to bring the All-Star Game back to Pittsburgh during his tenure.