Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017

Rostraver is hockey's big cheese

Rostraver Ice Garden has scored the biggest goal (so far) of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And it's about to become home to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For a night, anyway.

Still, we can't wait for what promise to be a groovy night for local hockey.

The Ice Garden won a competition to be named Kraft Hockeyville USA for 2017. An announcement was made during an NBC broadcast of the Ottawa Senators-New York Rangers playoff game Saturday afternoon.

For its victory, the Ice Garden will receive funding for facility improvements. Also, it will welcome the Penguins for a preseason game in September.

For more details about Rostraver Ice Garden becoming Hockeyville USA, check out the contest's official web site

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GETAWAY
mapping it out

Get your vacation personalized via Pittsburgh startup ViaHero

From Tribune-Review: Lynne Bangsund and her daughter Krista wanted to go to Cuba, but they didn't want to go with the standard guided tour.

"We both speak a little Spanish, and we didn't really want to go with 30 other people," Bangsund said.

So, when they found travel site ViaHero online, they decided to give it a try. They got a personalized itinerary prepared by a bona fide Cuban guide for a fraction of the cost of a travel agent, Lynne said.

"It was amazing, we had the entire trip planned," she said. Not only did they get to see sights they wouldn't otherwise have known about, Bangsund said the pair felt like they had an edge over other travelers. As they made their way around Havana, they encountered other tourists at restaurants. "They would be waiting but we had all our reservations planned ahead of time."

When it launches in Japan in May, East Liberty-based travel startup ViaHero will add a third island country to its small but growing portfolio.

(ViaHero)

An AlphaLab alumni company, ViaHero creates customized travel guides that allow travelers to experience their destination like a local. Rather than compensating the hotel or airline trying to sell the most expensive trip, ViaHero relies on the person providing the expert advice (the "heroes," if you will) to create the best possible travel experience.

"People really value the local insight they wouldn't have access to otherwise," said ViaHero CEO Greg Buzulencia. "You'd have to go through thousands of reviews on a site like TripAdvisor to get this depth of information."

(ViaHero)

ViaHero has started small, launching in Cuba and Iceland as its first markets. The company uses a blend of Airbnb hosts, freelance tour guides and local travel writers, many of whom come with their own audiences, to help plan the trips for customers.

With Cuba a relatively new destination for American travelers and Iceland becoming a more popular destination due to low-cost airfares, ViaHero has found a niche within the very crowded online travel space.

Buzulencia says the typical customer for ViaHero is an experienced international traveler, who might have visited a place with a tour guide in the past but wants a more authentic and independent experience.

Read about how ViaHero works at the Tribune-Review.

— Tribune-Review

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the Trib's Jerry DiPaola tells us why...

In Conner, Steelers Nation can trust

Pitt's James Conner is a Pittsburgh Steeler. So we asked a Pittsburgher who knows a lot about the football programs that occupy the Rooney Sports Complex for his thoughts on the feel-great story of the 2017 NFL Draft.

James and the Steelers as only the Tribune-Review's Jerry DiPaola can tell it.

Injured and ill, James Conner joins Pitt teammates on the field prior to a bowl game in 2015. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

I'm sorry. I can't think of James Conner without seeing the sun set over Lake Erie.

People who live in or near Erie — and James proudly numbers himself among them — will tell you it's the most beautiful sight on earth.

Yeah, there's a story.

Before he came to Pitt and turned into an All-American running back as a sophomore and, Friday night, a Steeler, James was just another football player at Erie McDowell High School. Making friends, trying to make an impact, looking out for others.

His best friend and quarterback since sixth grade, Sean Gallagher, has a sister, Meghan, who five years ago was in a hospital room at UPMC Hamot, getting treatment for a kidney ailment. The room had no view of the lake.

James thought that was just plain wrong.

So, he picked Meghan out of her bed, cradled her in his massive arms, carried her out of the room and set her down in front of a window.

"The sunset relaxed her mind," James told me.

That's part of what the Steelers are getting, and he couldn't have come around at a better time for a franchise recently beset by too much bad news, up to and including the death of Dan Rooney.

That's a part of this story, too.

The late Dan Rooney after the AFC Championship game in 2009. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

James was in Dan's company many times at the South Side practice facility Pitt shares with the Steelers. But never as boss and employee. And were Dan alive, he and James still wouldn't have had the boss-employee relationship many people know in their companies.

Indeed, James and Dan would have shared a great, long-term relationship. Both men would have made sure of it.

Which brings me, finally, to the reason I'm writing these words the morning after James was drafted by the team that Dan helped build into the Super Bowl era's flagship football franchise.

These words are about James. They are also about the Steelers. I want everybody reading these words to realize what drafting James means for the Steelers.

James did beat cancer. He was an inspiration while battling the disease, and that fight reflected who he is and how he lives. But that fight was only a chapter of James' story.

Just. One. Chapter.

Through his wonderfully crafted Players Tribune essay, James spoke of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a goal. He told me years ago, "The NFL is on my mind every day."

Nice to hear from a college star, but James should know that much more relevant stuff needs to happen for him to run into the most famous building in Canton, Ohio.

The easy (if fortuitous) part was getting drafted by the Steelers on Friday night. It happened three picks from the end of the third round. The Steelers selected him with a pick provided by the NFL for former players who had left Pittsburgh as free agents.

If not for that bit of largesse by the league seeking to level the playing field, James would have been on a plane to somewhere else Saturday morning, not sitting across from coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II. (James actually did have a 10 a.m. appointment at Steelers headquarters.)

With that appointment, James was in a spot similar to one by another college star upon whom the Steelers used a compensation pick at the end of a third-round. You might remember that guy.

He is Hines Ward. And without their drafting of Hines in 1998, the Steelers may not have written the great chapter that was their first decade of this century.

You might think James would sign in blood for a career similar to Hines' Hall-of-Fame caliber tenure.

Nope.

James will gladly work to make his own mark, thank you.

On the field, James will provide the Steelers a nice complement to Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell, a way to extend that possible Hall-of-Fame career by having someone else share all those carries, absorb some of those hits. James won't make many long runs in the NFL, but he'll break the spirit of some defensive backs.

Duke's 180-pound cornerback Breon Borders found that out the hard way one day at Heinz Field. With one of the same arms that carried Meghan Gallagher toward that Lake Erie sunset, James viciously stiff-armed Breon out of bounds while trying to rally Pitt to a victory.

Through the years covering Pitt's football program, I enjoyed the one-on-one, sit-down interviews with James and grew to appreciate and understand why he addressed his elders as "Sir" and "Mister." Not all of college athletes take that approach.

It's something called respect.

With James, as it was with Dan Rooney, respect is earned because it is first given.

James affords the game of football that respect, too. He prepares to play on so many levels, from practices on the field, video work with coaches, lifting weights, bonding with teammates, even walking around the offices clutching a jug of water so he'll be properly hydrated.

Unlike in college, Conner won't find many defensive backs reluctant to tackle him. I can tell him from having seen it with my own eyes, his own new teammates didn't shy from trying to tackle Jerome Bettis during his first training camp with the Steelers in 1996.

But when the collisions come for James this July, they won't be pretty. I hope James' new Steelers teammates heed my warning.

If they didn't see him doing it for Pitt at Heinz Field on Saturdays, the people of Steelers Nation will love seeing James Conner run over opposing defenders on Sundays. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

One final story.

During a spring practice session in 2014, former Pitt safety Terrish Webb, 80 pounds lighter than James, rushed up to try to tackling him. The noise of the crash drowned out any words that could be overheard, but I have always presumed Terrish said more than "Ouch."

Later, Pitt's running backs coach at the time, John Settle, told James, "Kids shouldn't play in traffic."

"It was an accident," James said, sheepishly.

Not it wasn't, James.

Nothing you do is accidental.

Jerry DiPaola has covered every level of Western PA football for the Tribune-Review

Follow tribLIVE for more coverage of Pitt football and the 2017 NFL Draft

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Hometown hero

James Conner's Steelers jerseys are gonna be gold

We already know that someone somewhere is printing T-shirts this late.

All because this happened tonight:




And Steeler Nation rejoiced!


Read about more about Conner from Jerry Dipaola at the Tribune-Review.

Let's never forget:

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that's one way to send a message

Pittsburghers pissed about homeless camps pitch tents outside mayor's house

Several North Side residents who are irate over a homeless encampment in their neighborhood pitched two tents Thursday night next to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's Point Breeze home.

Peduto, 52, who is running for re-election, called the stunt a "new low in Pittsburgh politics."

Peduto on Friday morning said the North Side encampment has been there for years. He said the city has worked with social service agencies in an attempt to move the homeless into housing.

"It never became an issue until two weeks before the (May 16) election," he said. "Darlene Harris is using it on the campaign trail as a wedge, dividing issue of people in Pittsburgh."

Read more from the Tribune-Review.

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hit the brakes

Downtown-to-Oakland bus plan in peril

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Capital funding for projects such as the Port Authority's proposed Bus Rapid Transit system between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland is in limbo as part of the federal budget debate.

"We are in the midst of a battle," said Art Guzzetti, vice president of policy and research for the American Public Transportation Association. "The funding is up in the air."

For these types of projects, the federal government generally provides about 43 percent of the funding, the state and local governments provide the rest. The Port Authority proposal would cost $200 million to $240 million based on the configuration of the system between Downtown and Oakland and whether it includes extensions to Highland Park, Squirrel Hill and Wilkinsburg.

The Port Authority, working with Allegheny County and Pittsburgh officials, is trying to cobble together funding from a number of sources because the project will use electric vehicles to reduce air pollution, install green infrastructure and modernize sewers in the Uptown neighborhood.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the federal budget is "in flux" right now, but he isn't concerned about funding for the project.

"No. 1, it's a great project and it has a lot of community support," he said. "I think it will score very well and win approval."

Read more about the project from the P-G.

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name probably sounds familiar

Meet the newest Steeler

In case you were asleep (or too drunk watching from the Penguins game) to pay attention to the NFL Draft, the Steelers selected Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt at No. 30 overall.





Here's a few things to know about Watt.

He went from tight end to linebacker

Following a redshirt season as a freshman, Watt proceeded to injure his right knee in August 2014, forcing him to the bench for the entire season. He didn't have any luck in the spring of 2015, either, hurting his left knee. However, the Pewaukee, Wis., native decided to switch from tight end to linebacker that fall and played in all 13 games as a sophomore.

"There's certainly a learning process involved there," Wisconsin senior linebacker Vince Biegel said of Watt. "I think the best thing he did was being open and trying to learn every day."

He's J.J. Watt's younger brother

Yes, that J.J. Watt. After walking on at Wisconsin, J.J. Watt has turned into one of the elite defensive ends in the NFL.

Although he was limited to just 3 games last season, he picked up his third Defensive Player of the Year award after the 2015 season, in which he notched 17.5 sacks. Additionally, he etched his name into the record books the previous year, becoming the first lineman since Chicago Bears DE Connie Mack Berry in 1944 to reach the end zone five times in a single-season.

Although he has gone a bit unnoticed, Derek Watt, the middle brother of the three, plays fullback for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Better than J.J.?

Like T.J., J.J. also began his collegiate career as a tight end, playing the position at Central Michigan as a freshman. Once he transferred to Wisconsin, Watt's career took off. Still, he considers his brother the better prospect of the two when he was at the same place in his budding career.

"He's (T.J.) so similar to me but he's farther along than I was at that point in the process," Watt said. "He's a lot better player than I was at that time. He has a lot more to grow even than I had. I think he's a really special player and it's been a lot of fun to watch him go through the process.

"He's so hungry. He's just itching to learn and grow as a person and as a player so he is always asking questions, he's always wanting to compete in the workouts."

Read more about the newest Steeler from the Land of 10.

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open mouths, open hearts

New nosh spots boost downtown ’Burgh's vibe

The surge in new restaurants Downtown has been a good recipe for drawing more people to the Golden Triangle, according to a report released Thursday.

"Food drives foot traffic," the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership wrote in its annual State of Downtown report, which looks at a number of key economic factors related to life and business in Western Pennsylvania's most bustling central business district.

The Downtown Partnership said 30 restaurants opened in the Greater Downtown area in 2016 — and 10 more in just the first four months of this year. The organization defines Greater Downtown as the Golden Triangle, North Shore, South Shore, Uptown, the Bluff, the Lower Hill District and the Strip District to 31st Street.

The three biggest spots for new eateries: the North Shore (with nine), Mellon Square (with six) and Market Square (with five).

Revel + Roost is among the new downtown Pittsburgh spots. (Revel + Roost via Instagram)

And even more new restaurants and bars are on the horizon. Made in Pgh reports upcoming spots include Or, the Whale in the new Distrikt Hotel on Boulevard of the Allies; Millie's ice cream is expanding with another spot downtown next to Revel + Roost; Yuzu Kitchen's ramen plates and tapas-style apps are headed for Wood Street; and Burn by Rocky Patel, a Naples, Fla., cigar bar is opening on the North Shore.

Burn by Rocky Patel is headed to the North Shore (Burn)

In a pedestrian traffic study conducted last year, the Downtown Partnership found that foot traffic was up 108 percent in the 900 block of Penn Avenue compared with 2012 and up 30 percent in Market Square in the same span. In the four-year period, eight new restaurants opened in the Penn Avenue corridor and 12 did in or near Market Square.

The increased number of people living Downtown also contributed to the extra foot traffic. The report said that 14,764 people called Greater Downtown home in 2016, up 2.6 percent from the year before and 22 percent from 2010.

— Tribune-Review

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