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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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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Round 2 Round Table

Pens-Caps: What's the word?

Everybody is talking about another Stanley Cup playoffs showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. But not everybody can elevate the conversation.

We've assembled a group of hockey experts who can.

Joining us for a rink-side chat are: The Pens Blog's Jesse Marshall, Bill West of the Tribune-Review, Inside Hockey's Angie Carducci, Mike Asti of tribLIVE Radio and Pensburgh's Mike Darnay. Our sports editor Rob Rossi is moderating this mess of hockey hot takes, so let's get it on...


(Getty Images)

Where does everybody stand on the Penguins' defensive performance in Round 1, and is it really that much of an issue going forward?

CARDUCCI: When it comes to the Penguins, the best defense is a good offense, right?

ROSSI: Sure, why not?

CARDUCCI: That doesn't just mean scoring more goals than their opponent, which the numbers suggest they're going to do. They led the regular season in goals-for, and they're leading the playoffs so far. Their goals-against, though, is very middle of the pack, which is again consistent with the regular season.ASTI: No Kris Letang seemed like a big deal. While it's hard to be critical on easily unloading Columbus in five games, there is reason for concern. The Penguins were sloppy throughout the series. Columbus couldn't get out of its own way and then the Penguins' depth took over. Beyond Round 1, the Penguins won't be able to be as careless if they want to repeat, especially against the Capitals. Many of the shots Marc-Andre Fleury dealt with were as a result of the poor defense in front of him. There's still a lack of depth defensively and one-on-one battles against more skilled teams (and teams that can better utilize skill) could be a problem for Pittsburgh moving forward. With all that said, it was the offense that guided the Penguins towards a Stanley Cup last season.

ROSSI: It's THE Stanley Cup. There is only one. Moving on.

DARNAY: I'm gonna agree with Mike A. here. Especially in Games 3, 4, and 5, we didn't really see the net-front presence from the defensemen, who were very good at clearing pucks and making life easy for Fleury in Games 1 and 2.

WEST: I'm in agreement with the Mikes that there's limited upside to the Penguins' defensemen situation. Without Letang, it's simply not a dynamic blueline corps. Sound positioning on the back end becomes the name of the game. That might suffice if the Penguins continue to get consistent goaltending and the best goal production in the league. But it leaves a small margin for error.

ROSSI: And by "small," you mean "none."

WEST: I do think there's a fine line between being a source of uncertainty and one of concern, and the defensemen walked that line for most of the first round. None of the three pairings set itself apart as particularly poor or strong. Cole-Schultz, Dumoulin-Hainsey and Maatta-Daley each had games with encouraging performance metrics. Each also had games where almost nothing went well. And (coach) Mike Sullivan didn't change much strategically to suggest he grew more confident in one duo than another. Match-ups shifted a bit from night to night, and which forward lines the defensive pairs skated behind also remained fluid.

It's worth noting that the forwards probably can do more to help the blueline in the next round. When Sullivan harps on puck management and his other "Right Way to Play" points, I think he's mostly reminding his centers and wingers that the Penguins win through territory control rather than outstanding own-zone efforts. Sidney Crosby's line proved particularly inconsistent on the possession front in the first round. That's unusual, and it would seem unlikely to continue. But if it does, that's maybe a more troubling sign for the Penguins than anything that involves the blueline.

ROSSI: Uh, is Jesse still here?

(Getty Images)

DARNAY: To Bill's point, if the Penguins are spending a lot of time in their own zone, they're probably not winning. The more offensive-zone time they create, the harder they are to beat.Sullivan said he'd compensate for the loss of Letang by committee, and he wasn't kidding. The ice time has been very balanced among the six defensemen, with just a little more for the top guy. Justin Schultz averaged slightly over 21 minutes, but Ron Hainsey and Brian Dumoulin were each at 19:44.

That could serve them well down the road with no one carrying too much of the load, but I wouldn't mind seeing Schultz carry a little more. He's the most talented offensive defenseman they have right now, and he showed he was up to an increased workload earlier in the season when Letang was out. Even carried a Letang-like 30 minutes a time or two, though I wouldn't want to see that.

ROSSI: I tend to think Schultz might go in Round 2 as Jesse has for this question.

DARNAY: In the end, though, it has to be a whole-team effort. Play fast, play smart with and without the puck, don't make the high-risk play. If the Penguins give up the number and quality of chances to, say, Washington that they gave Columbus in those last couple games, it's not going to go well.

CARDUCCI: So, like Mike D. said, I'm looking for their offense to make the defensive lapses matter less. But the Penguins would like to have the defense jump-start the offense, getting pucks behind other teams so their skilled forwards can go to work. Letang is a key part of that, and he's irreplaceable. Because of the way the Penguins want to play, I genuinely think he's their most important player, and that's a big loss. But it's nothing they're not used to; he missed an even half of the regular-season games this year, and look where they finished.

ASTI: All this agreeing with me is going to freak Rob out. Haha.

ROSSI: Jesse, is that you?


OK, let's have a little bit of a break from the heavy stuff. What is your favorite Penguins playoff memory?

DARNAY: Paying off my debt of a bet made July 1, 2015, and taking Steve Dangle to Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, thanks to Phil Kessel.

MARSHALL: 2001 Eastern Conference semifinal, Game 6, and Mario Lemieux scored with 1:18 left and an empty net to tie the game keep the Penguins alive against the Sabres.

ROSSI: Realizing, just now, that Jesse is still part of this group. I'll never get over it.

WEST: The details are a little hazy because I was 5 or 6 at the time, but in 1991, I either fell asleep or had to go to bed before the Penguins won the Cup clincher. Either way, I was unhappy I was missing the game's end. So my dad grabbed some tin foil and this oddly shaped plastic trap thing from a bug collection kit and built a mini Stanley Cup in the middle of the night. That's what I woke up to see the next morning and hence how I learned they won.

ROSSI: Second-favorite memory was that time West used "hence."

ASTI: Experiencing the celebration of the Penguins' Stanley Cup win on East Carson Street in 2009. I was too young to fully enjoy the atmosphere of the early 1990s Cups...

ROSSI: One Cup. Just one. Get it right!

ASTI: ...and when Jordan Staal showed off Lord Stanley's Cup out of a window at top Mario's, it sent shockwaves of joy, that was even extra crazy for the South Side.

ROSSI: You're all disgustingly young. And I hate you all for it!

CARDUCCI: For me, it all comes back to family. Sharing the game experience — at any level of hockey — with your loved ones, and especially watching a little one fall in love with the game you love, takes it all to another level. As far as my opportunities to cover the sport, the 2008 Winter Classic and 2009 Stanley Cup in Detroit stand out as especially magical experiences for me.

ROSSI: Malkin hugged me last year on the ice in San Jose. My slacks had ripped and were taped together from the inside. It was... something.


(Getty Images)

What will we be talking about at the end of Round 2?

MARSHALL: Before I get to the answer, can we all acknowledge how inherently stupid it is for the NHL to put the top two teams from the conference together in the second round? I hate to beat a dead horse here, but there's absolutely no reason we should be seeing this series in Round 2 year after year.

ROSSI: Man, I miss when Jesse didn't respond.

CARDUCCI: The NHL's insistence on pushing divisional rivalries punishes its best division come playoff time. This year that's the Metro, which has three of the eight teams remaining, including this matchup. I'd love to see a return to straight one through eight conference seeding.

MARSHALL: Anyway, on to the question at hand. I'm going in a different direction. I think the stories that'll come out of this series after its over are the Capitals' inability to get over the second-round hump and Malkin's emergence as the clear-cut favorite for a second Conn Smythe Trophy. With 11 points coming into this series, the well-rested Geno is going to continue his reign of dominance in the second round. I think another performance like the one he put up against the Jackets will quell the heat of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin "rivalry."

CARDUCCI: Couldn't agree with you more about Malkin, Jesse. He's leading the playoff scoring so quietly that I've actually heard broadcasters and a few fans comment that he needs to step it up. Another Conn Smythe would be a pretty fun way to assert his standing in the NHL's Top 101.

(Getty Images)

ASTI: Honestly, what Angie and Jesse touched on is likely what the series should focus on. Malkin should be the discussion entering this series, and if he continues on this pace, he should be the talk after it. That doesn't mean he will be, though. Playing next to Crosby and being from the same nation as Ovechkin has made him often overlooked (beyond smart hockey minds) in his career. I fear it will likely happen again.

ROSSI: There will be no living with me if he wins another Smyth. For starters, I'll stop wearing pants.

DARNAY: Easy!

Regardless of which way the series go, it'll either be Crosby or Ovechkin as the lightning rod, yet again. Can Ovechkin push his team over the hump past the second round? Will Crosby pass the baton to Ovechkin? It feels like it could be the ultimate coin-flip of a series, but the two big guys wearing the "C" will be the talking point no matter which way this one goes.

WEST: My guess: Crosby, Ovechkin, something, something, what a series by Conor Sheary.

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a rob rossi column

Four letters that suck for hockey

The phone rings. The voice booms.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

Things suck.

They sucked for former ESPN employees on Wednesday like they have sucked for former employees elsewhere on days past, like they will suck for future former employees somewhere on days to come. They suck in ways equally insulting and indecent. They suck for everybody involved, and that group includes an audience whose connection to a journalist was suddenly severed. But they mostly suck for the journalist that the audience rarely knows.

Scott Burnside is my friend. And it sucks knowing he'll probably begin our next conversation the way he has started all of them for well over a decade.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

In a past life, Scott often pulled me from an abyss I couldn't help but seek. His arrivals in Pittsburgh as a national columnist for ESPN's web site usually seemed perfectly timed to coincide with a professional drama that was damaging me personally.

Covering the Penguins as the Tribune-Review's beat reporter was my dream job. But I never liked dreaming, so I made a bad habit of trying to turn the dream into a nightmare.

How would I have covered Sidney Crosby had I known about my ADHD? Differently, I think. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

I can look back on those days without regrets because I know the guy making mistakes wasn't a jerk. Rather, he was an undiagnosed case of adult ADHD and all the good and bad that comes with the condition. He couldn't let go because of his hyper-focus, or his anxiety, or his obsessive-compulsive leanings, or his depression. He couldn't let go because his body couldn't produce the proper chemicals that "other" people who were "normal" might have in abundance.

He still exists. But I keep him at arms-length through counseling and medication, and the only reason that I'm writing about him is because of the friend that Scott was to me a couple of years ago.

The dream gig had gone away, and with it went the comfort of control that had existed.

As a columnist, I was miserable. The variety of subject matter that accompanied my promotion had driven me to a dull despair. Without the Penguins' world to bury myself in, I began to see mine for what it had become.

It had become whatever I could make of it. And the fear of that responsibility sent me home most nights to reruns of sitcoms I had long ago memorized, re-readings of stories I had long ago finished, and re-enactments of scenes I had long ago vowed to forget.

Ron Swanson would not have approved of how often I watched his personal government shutdown. (Getty Images)

It about a year ago this past January when Scott rang after I hadn't returned a few emails. Whether or not he remembers the conversation, I have no idea.

You can surely guess what was first said.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

My answer was full of lies. After the talk, I couldn't let go of my disgust with having lied to a friend who had phoned only to check on me.

Why? All Scott had ever done was be there for me.

He had introduced me to agents when I was an inexperienced, unknown reporter. He had helped me flesh out ideas when I was transitioning towards chasing national stories. He had counseled me when I was covering my first labor stoppage. He had given me responsibilities within the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He had paid for rounds at Smokin' Joe's Saloon. He had offered his vacation spot as a getaway.

He had been a friend and a mentor and a guidepost and a leader and... well, he had been more than I deserved. And I lied to him when he sensed I needed to come clean with how things really were.

A terrible rest of that day bled into a lustful, lousy night. The next morning, my iPad screen was full with links to profiles of local therapists.

If he would be so kind as to ask again, Scott would be given an answer.

OK, so things are fun, too? (upgruv)

Things are better. Not always great. But better. A lot better.

Things are better for me because of Scott.

I was at a Penguins practice on Wednesday when word came down that Scott, Pierre LeBrun and so many others had been done dirty by the supposed "worldwide leader." A lot of the hockey folks at the Lemieux Complex came up to me and asked if I had "talked to Scotty."

Not yet. Soon

The great thing about a great friend is that you know that person well enough to know when to say what needs said.

Things sucked for a lot of sports journalists on Wednesday. Included in that group is a damn fine hockey writer named Scott Burnside.

But he's a lot more to a lot of people. Hope he knows that more than a few of us in his beloved Pittsburgh are thinking of our friend on another day that sucked.

Rob Rossi is our sports editor


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holy smokes!

Look who's back...

It's Martavis Bryant. And (as of now, anyway) he'll be one of Ben Roethlsiberger's targets when the Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp this summer.

The NFL has conditionally allowed Bryant to begin playing again. He missed all of last season because of a suspension.

In a statement on the team's official web site, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert noted Bryant taking "necessary steps in an effort to get his personal life in order." He also stressed Bryant's reinstatement is "just the beginning" of a longer process.

"We look forward to working with Martavis to ensure
that he is mentally and physically prepared to contribute to our efforts
on the field, while also maintaining the proper balance
to keep his life in order off the field."
— Kevin Colbert, Steelers GM

For details on why Bryant was suspended last season, read this story on the NFL's site

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baseball's new odd couple

Jeb, Jeter hook the Marlins

Baseball's fish have been reeled in by the GOP's one-time presumed presidential nominee and one of those damn Yankees.

A group led by Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter won an auction for the Miami Marlins, a person with knowledge of the deal told Bloomberg News. The person requested anonymity because the sale contract hasn't been signed.

The Marlins are currently owned by Jeff Loria, a New York art dealer. He purchased the team for $158 billion in 2002.

Forbes had estimated the Marlins' value at $940 million.

Other bidders were Quogue Capital LLC founder Wayne Rothbaum, and Solamere Capital co-founder Tagg Romney (son of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt), whose group included former All-Star pitcher Tom Glavine. Loria had been close to a deal with the Kushner family, relatives by marriage to President Donald Trump, but no agreement was reached.

Loria bought the team in 2002 for $158 million. Forbes said the franchise is valued at $940 million.

Any change of ownership requires approval from MLB. It probably won't be an issue for Bush, a former presidential candidate whose brother, former President George W. Bush, once owned the Texas Rangers, and Jeter, a future Hall-of-Famer and Florida resident who has said for years that he wanted to own a baseball team.

For complete details of the Marlins sale, please read this story on Bloomberg's site

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NASCAR losing its biggest wheel

These are Dale Jr.'s last rides

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, the AP reported.

A two-time Daytona 500 winner and third-generation NASCAR driver, Earnhardt has been plagued by concussions the last several years. He missed half of last season recovering from the latest head injury. It's caused him to delay contract talks on an extension to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet, and now he appears ready to call it quits.

Earnhardt turns 43 in October, was married during the offseason and has stated he wants a family. He's become a vocal advocate for research of sports-related brain injuries.

Earnhardt has won NASCAR's most popular driver award a record 14 times. He has 26 career Cup victories, but no series championships. His late father won the championship seven times.

For more details on this big NASCAR story, check out the AP's auto racing coverage

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something to sneeze at?

Possible Steelers' draft pick fails test

Can't say for sure if the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking at him, though some people seem to think that was the case.

Were it, can say the University of Michigan's Jabrill Peppers will probably be around when the Super Bowl era's flagship franchise picks in Round 1 of the NHL Draft.

The NFL has notified teams Peppers tested positive for a dilute sample at the scouting combine, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday. Peppers is the second NFL draft prospect to test positive for a dilute sample at the combine, joining Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

A source told ESPN's Schefter that Peppers, who has a history of cramping, was ill after flying to Indianapolis from San Diego, so he drank eight to 10 bottles of water as he was the first athlete to run for both the linebackers and defensive backs.

More information about Peppers' situation can be found in this story from ESPN.

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