Penn State prepares to host its 1st NHL game at Pegula

Penn State prepares to host its first NHL game on Monday. The puck drops at 7 p.m. for the preseason matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild.
Penn State prepares to host its first NHL game on Monday. The puck drops at 7 p.m. for the preseason matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild. Centre Daily Times, file

When the puck drops at Pegula Ice Arena on Monday, the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild will skate across center ice over the iconic Nittany Lion logo.

It will be the first professional hockey game to be played at Penn State, made even more significant because the man with his name on the building is the owner of the Sabres.

Terry Pegula’s $102 million in donations helped build the arena and establish the men’s and women’s varsity hockey programs.

“The travel plans for the Buffalo Sabres have not been made public. There is always a possibility he will be in attendance, but it is unknown at this point,” Penn State Athletics spokesman John Hanna said earlier this week.

Tickets are still available and prices have ranged from $25 for students up to $175 for the general public, according to Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

In the weeks leading up to the game, the arena staff had to make several changes around the building and on the ice.

“The ice crew has been preparing ever since we found out that we would be hosting this game,” said Deborah Campbell, rink supervisor.

The most notable change was putting in the NHL-required trapezoid lines behind each net, the only area behind the goal line where NHL goalies are allowed to control the puck.

The rink staff had to remove ice and paint in the new lines, a different process because most of the lines at Pegula are made with tape. The work took about six hours.

“The lines are a lot easier to take out than they are to put in,” Campbell said.

Though it is a Sabres home game, it is being treated as a neutral-rink game. The Nittany Lion logo at center ice and on the Jumbotron will remain. Logos of both NHL teams will be on the ribbon screen around the upper seating level.

The Sabres will use the Penn State locker room and the Wild will use the guest locker room.

The game will be played under standard NHL rules and will feature a commemorative puck with both teams’ logos. The puck will be available for purchase at gates A and B, as well as at the merchandise stands for $9.98.

It will be the Sabres’ third preseason game, and the first for the Wild, but it will be the only preseason game for both played at a college arena.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and the sport to play in different buildings. Obviously, Penn State has a program there that is up-and-coming and has a great new facility, so we are happy to show fans in the area what NHL hockey is like,” Minnesota’s head of media relations Aaron Sickman said.

Both teams will be without several top players, who are playing at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Marquee players such as Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild are not expected to play. The World Cup ends Saturday.

“It will be a good opportunity for some of our younger prospects,” Sickman said. “Buffalo is in a similar situation.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the arena. We are looking forward to a good crowd and a good atmosphere.”

Matt Castle is a Penn State journalism student.