If you remember back about seven or eight years, the Pittsburgh Penguins almost dropped the "Pittsburgh" part of their name. They were in a fight to get a new arena, still losing money and deep in the pre-Sidney Crosby days of losing and hell. And to what city were they rumored to be on the move?
Las Vegas was an option, Hamilton was an option, but the most dramatic of the rumors came out of Kansas City, where a brand new arena, Sprint Center, was under construction. It opened in 2005.
Now, in the 2011 preseason, the Penguins will be heading to KC for a neutral site game against the Los Angeles Kings. They'll play on Tuesday, September 27, and it could be slightly awkward.
Of course, it wasn't too bad when the New York Islanders played there in 2009, even as fans and local officials saw the decision by Charles Wang to play a game in KC as a bit of a veiled threat. Hey, if you don't give us what we want, there's a nice shiny building 1,200 miles away where we can play.
That new building, by the way, is one of many operated by AEG, the owners of the Los Angeles Kings. There's a reason why the Kings are the opponent against the Penguins this year and were also the opponent against the Islanders back in 2009. And since they keep hosting NHL preseason games, they might be trying to pique interest in the Sprint Center from teams that could be on the move -- like, um, Phoenix.
Things are different for the Penguins than the Isles, of course. They have their new arena, they've vaulted back into the top of the NHL in terms of revenues and are one of the league's most recognizable franchises. Still, it's a cute little reminder of the awkward position they were in just a few years ago.
Get the full Pens' preseason schedule at Pensburgh.