NWHL takes 2017 All-Star Game to Pittsburgh

In a letter on the NWHL website, league commissioner Dani Rylan hinted at a huge announcement regarding the location of the All-Star Game.

For a league in desperate need of positive PR, it would take a seismic announcement to change the narrative; at least, for a little while.  Anything involving the franchise that currently holds the title of defending Stanley Cup champions certainly helps.

The weekend of Feb. 11 and 12 the best of the best in the NWHL will showcase their talents in Pittsburgh (more or less).

From the NWHL press release:

All 2017 NWHL All-Star events will be held at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the state-of-the-art practice facility of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Cranberry Township, PA – 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

“We’re excited to have the National Women’s Hockey League bring its showcase event to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex,” said David Morehouse, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Women’s hockey is growing rapidly both in Pittsburgh and across the world, and this will give our fans the chance to see some of the most talented players in North America and create new role models for aspiring players in the Pittsburgh area.”

In Rylan’s letter, she spoke to the decision to take the All-Star Game outside the ‘Founding Four’ team locations of Buffalo, Boston, New York and Connecticut.

“… Since we launched back in April 2015, we have been contacted regularly by fans and sports business professionals asking when the NWHL will expand to their city. After conducting extensive market research on many fan suggestions and business pitches, we strategically selected a location for this season’s All-Star Game that will not disappoint.”

Making this decision public after so much bad press in the past two weeks leads one to believe the NWHL has enough capital to keep functioning through, at the very least, the All-Star Game.

Looking at this from the Pittsburgh Penguins perspective, they’re a franchise that cares a lot about their image. If they didn’t believe the NWHL would be up and running in February, then they probably wouldn’t offer their fancy practice facility and whatever resources they’re going to throw behind the event.

Keep in mind, we don’t know what financial deal the Penguins and the NWHL cut to make this all happen. The All-Star Game is in the NWHL budget, but again, we don’t know and can’t expect to know, how much money they have planned to spend for the event.

There are risks involved in taking the game outside of the Founding Four rinks. Die-hard NWHL fans will make the trek to Pittsburgh. It’s going to take a significant effort on behalf of the NWHL, and hopefully with help from the Penguins, to fill the arena with locals who might only be acutely aware of the league.

As for those hoping to see some of the Penguins show up at the All-Star festivities, it’s a long shot. The team plays in Arizona on the night of the skills competition. Sunday is an off day they’ll probably use for travel.

Amanda Kessel, superstar sister of Phil, has been out with an injury a majority of this season. Should she be healthy enough to play, she’s almost definitely guaranteed a spot on the roster. Perhaps she can convince Phil to jump on an earlier flight and come to the game; bonus points if she can get him to arrive in a hot dog costume.

Tickets for the event go on sale on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 10:00am ET. Additional information will be announced in the coming weeks.