With losses projected to be around 7 million dollars and some serious foot dragging by civic and state officials in Pittsburgh, if could be that the Penguins could actually take flight by the end of 2007.
Mario Lemieux, issued the warning today by describing things as doutbful that the Pens would remain in Pittsburgh after the 2007 season.
The 7 million dollar loss projection is even more disturbing when Lemieux explained that the total was reached with the idea of near capacity crowds all year long and going at least as far as the second round of the playoffs. With the oldest arena in the league and no prospect of a new one coming down the line, Lemieux may finally have tired of his Super Mario status as savior of the franchise.
It poses an interesting situation for the NHL, the team while having problems in Pittsburgh offers up the future in a pretty grand style with Sidney Crosby the new building brick of the Penguins stock. With the likes of Crosby and the other young guns coming up the line, this is a team that will be attracting more than a fair share of attention as the situation evolves in Pittsburgh.
Already there are whispers that there is money in Kansas City looking to bring a franchise back to the Missouri city which once was home to the Scouts. A new arena there is looking to lure either an NHL or an NBA team to be it's marquee tennant. Houston and Las Vegas of all places also are apparently investigating the idea of bringing hockey to town. Of course any talk of a franchise relocation always perks up the ears in Winnipeg, Hamilton and Qubec City. All three of which would probably be a solid place for Mario to move his investment.
Imagine Sidney Crosby playing down the road from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Copps Coliseum. It would be Mario for Mayor if he moved the team to Winnipeg and well there would surely be a statue to be built in Quebec City, if the native son of Quebec was to bring back NHL hockey to the provincial capital.
Then again, perhaps the frank statement of fact by Lemieux, will light a fire under the folks in Pittsburgh and secure their Penguins for the long term. Lemieux has been trying for four years to get a new rink built in Pittsburgh, the latest plan was for the Penguins to gain control of a slots licence to fund a new arena, with the government yet to award the licences and the losses mounting Mario may have finally had enough.
In the end, Mario is going to come out of this a winner as always! Whether it's in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, his team is going to be much in demand over the next few years. That seven million dollar loss this year could very well be just seed money, venture capital if you will over the next few years!
As they say at the gambling tables, place you bet and Let it Ride.