The Pittsburgh Penguins, and David Morehouse, push to stay ahead of the curve

When he has a choice, Morehouse has learned to match people with their counterparts to prioritize his time. If a vice president of marketing is coming in, then the team’s vice president of marketing meets with him or her. If it’s a CEO, or deal closing or relationship opening time, Morehouse steps in.

“I bring Mario and Ron into meetings when we need them. We bring them off the bench if we need the heavy hitters. And we have other owners that play roles, too,” he says.

But overall, it’s a group effort, because the organization’s success comes from above and below, Morehouse says.

“I have an ownership group that looks at the team as a long-term value play — it doesn’t try to squeeze every nickel out of everything — and wants to win, more than anything,” he says. “And they want to make a long-lasting impact on the community.”

The executive team under him is in complete alignment and understands the mission, the values, the brand and how the Penguins do business, Morehouse says.

“I could step back and fall asleep for three months and this place would still operate very well because it has very good people in charge that own it and run the individual departments,” he says.

 

Takeaways:

  • It doesn’t cost anything to treat your stakeholders well.
  • Go into your partnerships with an open mind.
  • Bring external innovators in to stay on the cutting-edge.

 

Morehouse timeline

December 2004  David Morehouse joins the Penguins as senior consultant on the team’s new arena project.

March 2007  Morehouse and ownership reach a deal with local and state officials to fund a new Pittsburgh arena.

April 2007  Morehouse named team president by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.

April 2008  The Penguins sell out every game (41) in the regular season for the first time in franchise history. This begins a streak of 12 straight sellout seasons.

June 2008  The Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992 but lose in six games to the Detroit Red Wings.

September 2008  Morehouse and his staff arrange for players, including star center Sidney Crosby, to personally deliver tickets to the homes of some season ticket holders. This unique outreach program is now in its 12th season.

Fall 2008  Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins Learn to Play Program (free equipment, including skates, for kids ages 4 to 9) begins. The program has introduced more than 1,500 players to the sport.

June 2009  The Penguins win the Stanley Cup, clinching the title with a Game 7 victory in Detroit.

August 2010  The Penguins’ new arena, CONSOL Energy Center, opens to rave reviews with a concert by Paul McCartney.

August 2010  Lemieux and Burkle add CEO to Morehouse’s title.

September 2010  Morehouse has the Penguins schedule an extra home preseason game and distributes all 18,000 tickets to area youth. The “Free Game for Kids” is now a Pittsburgh tradition.

March 2012  The Penguins partner with the Pittsburgh Hornets amateur hockey association and Dick’s Sporting Goods to create a new era of AAA hockey. By the 2018-19 season, the Penguins Elite had 22 teams (14 boys, eight girls) and had won three USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championships (two boys, one girls) since 2015.

September 2013  The Penguins rank No. 1 in “Fan Relations” in the NHL, according to the ESPN Ultimate Standings.

June 2014  The Penguins hire Jim Rutherford as general manager.

August 2015  One of Morehouse’s grand visions comes to life with the opening of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complete in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania — a first-of-its-kind facility combining an NHL practice rink with a world-class medical center.

June 2016  The Penguins win the Stanley Cup, defeating San Jose in the Finals. Rutherford is named NHL GM of the Year.

October 2016  Morehouse and his staff sign a new 20-year naming rights deal with PPG to change the arena’s name to PPG Paints Arena.

June 2017  The Penguins become the first NHL team in 20 years to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, clinching the title in Game 6 at Nashville.

August 2017  The EXCEL Hockey Academy forms as a partnership between North Catholic High School and the sports complex. In 2018-19, 55 high school students trained in the academy with 150 total participants between the high school, middle school and grade school programs.

March 2019  Morehouse and the Penguins announce a mixed-use development plan for the 28-acre site of the old Civic Arena, expected to attract $750 million in private investment.