I spent a year of my life in Pittsburgh. I have no sentimental attachments to the area. But it makes me sad, as a sports fan, to see a city on the verge of losing a team. That's why I'd hoped the group of investors who made a bid to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and keep them in-house, a group that included Mark Cuban and Dan Marino, would be successful in purchasing the team. They weren't. The group's $170M bid, a number that the investors would say they wouldn't top, has been rejected.
The leading bidder for the Penguins is Sam Fingold, a Hartford real-estate developer, who has offered $175M for the team. Despite his Hartford ties, and recent speculation that a team might be moved back to the city to replace the Whalers (now Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes), Fingold says he wouldn't move the team there. But Kansas City and Portland, who want teams, remain possibilities. The team, obviously, would like to stay in Pittsburgh. But that will require a new arena. The team is in development with a Pittsburgh-based casino to build a new arena in the Steel City, but if that falls through it'll be but a foregone conclusion that the Penguins will be moved.
It's a sad situation for a team with such history, and bad timing for a city that has sat through a few very ugly seasons recently. Things are looking promising -- the Penguins are loaded with young stars like Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Malone. Phenom Evgeni Malkin will be coming to the team this year once the team works a deal with Malkin's Russian club. Malkin was picked 2nd in the 2004 NHL Draft that produced Alexander Ovechkin #1 overall and has the potential to be even better than Washington's star, but hasn't gotten the recognition because of the lockout that ensued after his draft and the problems Pittsburgh's had getting him in the States. And this year, the Penguins struck gold again -- getting Jordan Staal, the latest of the pedigreed Staal family to make the NHL, at #2 in this draft. That's a phenomenal young core, and it'd be horrific for the city of Pittsburgh to have to deal with losing a team that's on the verge of maturation after putting up with the Penguins' recent performances.
Cuban and Marino, two Pittsburgh natives, would have been the perfect owners. As passionate as Cuban is, his and Marino's hometown pride would have never let the Penguins leave town, and having Cuban in the league would re-spark interest in Pittsburgh and the NHL in general. As it stands, Penguins fans will have to hope that whoever buys the team works with the city in developing a new arena until all options have been completely exhausted. Moving a franchise should always be a last resort. With any luck, Pittsburgh residents will get to see the Penguins' young group of future All-Stars reach their full potential in black-and-yellow.