On the day the NHL announced the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Sprint Center received an exhibition game.
The Los Angeles Kings announced Tuesday that they will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 27 at the Sprint Center.
The Kings are owned by AEG, which operates the Sprint Center, and will be playing their third exhibition game in Kansas City in the last four years. The last two games, in 2008 and 2009, were not too successful as the teams left many star players at home. And in the case of a 2008 game against St. Louis, the Kings actually played a split-squad game because they had another game in Los Angeles on the same night.
But Kansas City was not a player in the bidding for the Thrashers, who were purchased by Canadian interests and will play in the MTS Centre, an arena opened in 2004 and seats 15,015 for hockey.
AEG president Tim Leiweke, who sits on the NHL executive committee, has declined numerous interview requests in the last few weeks regarding whether his company is even interested in bringing an anchor tenant to the Sprint Center, one of the busiest concert/family show venues in the country.
“I think this is a nice gesture from Pittsburgh, who benefited from what was rolled out to them here in Kansas City,” said Paul McGannon, president of NHL21, the grass-roots organization supporting AEG’s efforts to bring an NHL team to the Sprint Center.
“When they got their building, we asked them to consider playing a game in Kansas City in the near future. They’ve upheld our request, and we feel it’s a real positive. “
McGannon, ever optimistic, is not giving up on his hopes of seeing an NHL team move to Kansas City. Several teams are still in difficult financial straits, including the Phoenix Coyotes, who will operate at least one more year in Arizona thanks to $25 million from the city of Glendale.
“The league and AEG are waiting for our market to mature from a hockey standpoint,” McGannon said. “We must continue to support the Missouri Mavericks … we need to open a two-sheet ice facility being planned north of the river … and we need to sell out these (exhibitions). Winnipeg will sell out those season seats in 30 days. Up there, the NHL is the NFL.”
McGannon said he’s confident Pittsburgh will bring superstar Sidney Crosby, who missed the second half of the 2010-11 season because of a concussion, to Kansas City for the game.
“I’m going to take the same position all the NBA fans took,” he said of last fall’s Miami Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder exhibition game at the Sprint Center. “They questioned LeBron James … but they all showed up.
The Kansas City Star