During their last season at Mellon Arena, several members of the Penguins such as Evgeni Malkin (above) referred to the team's locker room as "home." It was a bit cramped, especially when the grimy media types filed in to ask stupid questions. And you could occasionally see a rodent or two. But it was like that couch in your basement. It just felt comfortable, stains and all.
That's all gone.
The Penguins have abandoned Mellon Arena and have moved across the street to shiny new Consol Energy Center. It's full of bells and whistles for fans and players alike. But it's not "home." At least not yet.
That's where Dana Heinze (right), the Penguins' head equipment manager, comes in. It's his job to make it "home."
Heinze, with the help of assistant equipment managers Paul DeFazio and Danny Kroll, has been going non-stop since the end of the Penguins' playoff run to transition the Penguins' facilities to the new building.
It might seem like a simple, little move across the street for some hockey stick and skates, but that's hardly the case. In July, Heinze discussed the move to a new "home:"
On reconstructing the "feel" of a locker room:
"I think we’re lucky in the fact that we’re involved with the process of the new locker room from day 1, the entire equipment staff and medical staff. So we’ve had our finger on the design of that facility from the beginning. So moving forward into that, we know what to expect."
"But when you look at the Mellon Arena and the facility here, it is quite different. And there’s a lot of character here and a lot of history. And we’re moving into a new building that might be a lot nicer and larger, but it doesn’t have that character yet. So it’s going to take a little time. It’s going to take us as equipment managers and trainers to help put that character into that locker room."
"It’s not going to be an easy process. You can see just by being here, the massive amount of stuff we have. And the stuff that is in boxes already is just a small blip on the radar of what we have to move from this facility to the new one. And it’s a monumental task to get it over there in such a short amount of time. We have training camp over there this year. And to get this all set up in a new facility is not easy. But we’re trying our darndest to get things rolling right away."
"Rome wasn’t built in a day. In time, (Consol Energy Center), is going to have the same charm this little locker room at the Mellon has."
On consulting other teams which recently moved to a new arena:
"We actually met with certain teams over the year and sat down and discussed their trials and tribulations of moving a team into another building. I guess we’re more fortunate than some of the others. Like Phoenix for instance. Phoenix went on a 14-day or 16-day road trip and had some of their staff stay behind – during the regular season – and moved their facility during the season. We don’t have that problem. New Jersey moved into a new building last year. And they were sort of under the same time frame as we are where they didn’t have a lot of time to move from one building to the next.""In the end, we’ve done our jobs for a long time and we know what needs to be done. And unfortunately it’s not going to be easy, but we’re all here to work together to get it done so when the players come in to training camp, they won’t skip a beat coming from the Mellon Arena to the Consol Energy Center."
On cataloging the team's inventory and moving it across the street in an orderly fashion:
"Everything is marked as far what part of the facility it’s going to and the number of items in a box or what’s in the box. We’re going to implement a system sort of like the Buffalo Sabres – the Pitt Panthers have it – where all out equipment is "barcoded." And when we issue something, just scan that bar code and it will keep track of our inventory. So by starting fresh at the new building, there’s a lot of pluses for us."
On having the locker facilities immediately adjacent to the bench. At Mellon Arena, the facilities were across the ice from the benches:
"… I can’t explain how happy we are about that. For the visitors, it works out just as well because in today’s game, it’s all about fair play. We don’t have that problem any more. In the old building, both teams had to cross the ice for injuries, skate maintenance, or equipment repairs during the game. It’s a huge plus now the benches are where they’re at. As a matter of fact, we actually have small little tables built in the runways where we can put a portable skate machine as well. So instead of running 30 seconds to the locker room, it’s there right at our disposal. That’s a plus as well to help keep these guys from missing a beat on the ice."
On assigning locker stalls in Consol Enercy Center:
"I’ve talked to coach (Dan) Bylsma about that. We’re going to keep the same set up I think. We like to keep the goalies on the end. We like the defense all sitting together. If you’ve seen the new room at the Consol, it’s an oval. I call it “The Egg.” Where it’s centered in our facility, it’s the heart of our facility. What we will do is, in the middle, we’ll sort of leave those stalls open. When we have call-ups or around playoff time, we’ll fill in there."
What about Sidney Crosby:
"We like to keep an empty stall next to Sid. Which makes our lives easier. The media of course after the game, the crowd. If there’s not a stall open next to Sid, it could be a nightmare for the players sitting around him."
Will Mario Lemieux have a locker stall at Consol Energy Center the way he did at Mellon Arena after his retirement:
"I can’t say yes. I can say I personally would like it. When Mario agreed to let us keep his stall this last season at the Mellon, he told me he didn’t want a stall in the new one. But in talking with coach Bylsma and talking with the players, they really like the fact that we have an open stall there. And even though Mario might not have played a game at the Consol, it’s the fact that he’s such a part of our legacy and tradition with the Penguins. Players that walk in there, when they see his name up there, it’s really inspiring to them. We have our work cut out for us on that one. It’s going to be a Mario decision and I think Dan Bylsma will have to work on him for that."
On leaving Mellon Arena:
"That’s a tough one. Growing up in Johnstown. Getting a the opportunity to work for the Penguins. Working at the Mellon Arena AKA Civic Arena, was a dream come true. It’s quite small, but again, the ghosts and the charm this facility has is something really neat. But I guess at the end of the day when we walk out of here and shut those lights off… I’ll be sad. But it’s hard to be really sad when you walk through the doors of the new Consol Energy Center locker room because it is really, truly, I feel, probably the best locker room in the entire National Hockey League."