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Sitting Ringside

A grand opening


Penguins 5, Red Wings 1.
The real winners?
Fans getting the first glimpse of a sporting event at Consol Energy Center.
The Goal Mine glowed in the first hockey game here – even if it was just an exhibition that won’t count in the standings or statistics – before a spirited sellout crowd of 18,087 Wednesday night.
“We opened it up the right way,” winger Pascal Dupuis said. “It was one of those games I was happy to be part of. I was like, ‘Let’s make history.’”
Dupuis was on the ice for the opening faceoff, flanking stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the top line, and was amazed by the raucous reception the Penguins received.
“You get on the ice and everyone is cheering,” Dupuis said. “When I jumped on the ice, I looked around and said, ‘Oh, my God. This place is going to be rocking this season.’ It was for a preseason game. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like for a regular-season game.”
Five points about Consol Energy Center:
1. The energy. Now that they are finished waxing nostalgic about Civic Arena, Penguins fans are enjoying the team’s new shiny new home. The Penguins might have left the Igloo on a sour note, losing to Montreal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, but there is legitimate enthusiasm about having such a talented team in spectacular new digs.
“It’s an exciting night, just my first game with the Penguins,” said forward Ryan Craig, a free-agent signee who scored two goals. “I think you can feel it in the dressing room, but the whole building was excited. A minute in, they were chanting, ‘Let’s go Pens.’”
They chanted it again in the final 30 seconds of the third period.
2. IT’S LOUD. The acoustics in the building, which is proving to be a great concert venue, are amazing. It’s a vast improvement over the Civic Arena, and Penguins players noticed.
“You can hear the sound system very good,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “When I was sitting on the bench, I could feel the vibration. It was very cool. I like it when it gets loud. It makes it a fun place to play. … We want to make it tough for other teams to come into Pittsburgh and play us.”
3. The bells and whistles. If it didn’t seem like there was a capacity crowd – the lower deck had plenty of empty seats – it might have had something to do with all of the amenities available in the spacious concourses.
The Penguins’ dressing room alone is an incredible upgrade, shaped like a puck so that there are no corners and with a ceiling that pays homage to the Igloo’s retractable roof. The players don’t seem in any hurry to leave their lockers.
“It’s a great building,” Craig said. “They put a lot of time and effort into the design. The little things you can tell. I don’t know how many it holds, but I think everybody would be happy to walk away tonight.”
Consol Energy Center also has great sightlines, lighting and a high-definition scoreboard that makes it hard to keep your eyes on the ice.
“When I did catch a glimpse,” Dupuis said, “it was pretty HD out there.”
4. The boards are lively. The Penguins are quick to note that Consol Energy Center’s new boards are bouncy, and it wasn’t flattery when Fleury compared them to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
If you recall, Fleury allowed some soft goals on bad bounces off the boards at The Joe in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. So it’s going to take the Penguins’ goalie some getting time to adjust to how they play, something that Dupuis noted is also true of the wingers.
“I guess a couple more practices and games, just to know where the puck is going to end up at, in the glass or in the corners,” Fleury said. “I guess it’s just playing on it. … Just give it time and I’ll get used to it.”
5. We have a trivia answer. Penguins diehards know that Andy Bathgate scored the team’s first goal at Civic Arena. Now, Mike Comrie’s name will forever be associated with the first goal at Consol Energy Center.
The newly acquired right wing was the first to tally at the Goal Mine, swinging in mid-air to knock in a rebound of his missed shot past Chris Osgood. It took a couple whacks, but Comrie eventually scored – only 1:21 into the first.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card … but it was nice to chip in,” he said. “I got a couple rebounds. I’m not sure it’s going to help my shooting percentage, but I’ll take it.”



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