Last Updated on November 22, 2019 by Jeremy
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If you've ever driven on I-79 north of Pittsburgh, odds are good you've noticed the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
This massive facility is easily recognized with its numerous banners of Penguins Stanley Cup wins on the side, and on the inside features two ice skating rinks, a state-of-the-art training center, numerous exhibits, and a sports medicine facility run by UPMC.
But while all of this is interesting on its own right, perhaps what makes the Lemieux Complex the most exciting is that it is used by the Pittsburgh Penguins for practice, and some of them are open to the public to enjoy- for free!
A Penguins Practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
If you are eager to watch the Penguins practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, practice sessions tend to last just one hour, and it goes by fast.
Second, I do not think that these Penguins practices have any intense scenarios due to the nature of it being open to the public. While the setup of the practice session was structured into different drills, including some inter-team scrimmaging and shots-on-goal, you likely shouldn't expect it to be as exciting as a Penguins game at large.
So while the practice is at a much more relaxed pace than a make-or-break game, it is still pretty fun to watch some of the world's best hockey players train all the same.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is that the schedule listed on the complex website is prone to last-minute changes.
So while there are regular practice sessions scheduled during the hockey season, these could change based on a number of factors- and sometimes happen just before the scheduled time. When I arrived to watch the practice I asked the front desk workers if the Penguins were still going to be there, and they could not speak in definitives one way or another.
As such, it is best to go into this one knowing that all dates are simply tentative until the exact moment that the Penguins take the ice.
Behind the Scenes Tours Show Off the Property
For those who are really into hockey, you may want to call ahead to the complex to see if any tours would be available as well.
Part of the complex itself is a museum that you can see without a tour (such as the exhibit dedicated to Mario Lemieux or the photos/bios of local players who made it into the NHL over the years), but the guided tour dives down into so much more than that.
These tours offer an in-depth look at some aspects of the facility you may not see as a simple visitor, and also goes into more of the background of how the facility is operated in order to give ice time to all participating teams (its not just for the Penguins!), hosting world-class events, and even maintaining the rink to be a perfect match for PPG Paints Arena!
But perhaps my favorite part of the behind-the-scenes tour of the facility is getting a first-hand look at the zamboni machines and a deep explanation of how they work. It truly is a fascinating machine and you can get all your questions answered as a part of this one.
Don't Miss a Meal at The Training Table
One final aspect of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex to check out is the on-site cafe.
I know this may be a bit of a weird recommendation as most sports facilities have food, but The Training Table is operated by the chef for the Penguins. As the team is focused on being health-conscious (something that can't be said for several other NHL teams as you learn on the tour), it is refreshing to see a food menu developed with the same kind of ingredients that the players eat.
So while some of the menu items seem fairly conventional (the house burger, grilled cheese, pizza, etc.), what you may not notice upfront is the healthy ingredients list that goes into them. The chicken fingers are millet crusted and baked. The pizza uses spelt flour. The sides include fruit, pasta salad, and other healthy dishes. No commercial sodas can be found.
Even better? The price is hard to beat with most meal combos coming in well under $10, and you can take food into the stands to enjoy while the Penguins are practicing as well!
Overall, a Penguins practice event at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex may be short, but for die-hard fans this one is a must to see your favorite hockey players out on the ice in a rather cool environment.