Amid uncertainty, Penguins play on
By The Associated Press
Thursday, March 8, 2007
The Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to keep the franchise's uncertain future from infringing on a tight playoff race.
The lack of a deal with government officials to finance a new arena is clouding the issue of where the Penguins will play next season. But team members are trying to forge ahead with this season and keep their focus squarely on the Eastern Conference and a busy March schedule.
"Guys have been following (the arena situation), but we've just had so many games we just concentrate on hockey," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
"I know the majority of the guys here want to stay here. Guys like playing here. But as much as we want to stay here, if the team has to leave, it's out of our control. It's tough to get too high or too low even when a deal comes or doesn't come."
Winger Colby Armstrong says the Penguins need to concentrate on what they can control, and that's anything on the ice.
"We're not politicians or owners or anything like that in this room," Armstrong said. "So we just have to worry about winning games right now."
Players said management does not update them about the situation, and they get their information from news outlets the same way fans do. Even star Sidney Crosby, who lives with Lemieux ? the team's former superstar ? is out of the loop.
Armstrong and many teammates said they would prefer to remain in Pittsburgh, which is one of the NHL's strongest American markets.
Sellouts are the norm at Mellon Arena ? the league's oldest facility ? and local television ratings are among the highest of any American NHL market.
But team officials Monday declared an impasse in negotiations after they said they met Gov. Ed Rendell's demand of a $4 million per-year contribution to a new facility, and said they would aggressively pursue a move to a different market.
Kansas City already has made an offer to lure the team, and some members of the Penguins' brass met with Las Vegas officials Wednesday.
Co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, Rendell and other political and NHL officials were expected to meet Thursday in Philadelphia to continue discussions aimed at keeping the team in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the Penguins ? one of the league's hottest teams since January ? play on.
"We all want to stay here," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "We're just hoping it can get worked out."