It Takes More Than Sidney Crosby to Have a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh

The Mentorship Academy, an initiative of CNX Foundation, held its first combined male-female site visit at the PPG Paints Arena this past weekend. Our hosts were Kat, Gary, and Nick from the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, ASM Global (arena operator) and Aramark (concessions manager). All three leaders and their organizations were amazing, especially considering the Academy visit was held on a busy weekend game night.

The students were provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the state-of-the-art PPG Paints Arena amidst a coordinated army of dedicated employees buzzing across the facility preparing for the 7 p.m. puck drop. It was a surreal experience to start the event in mid-afternoon with an empty, quiet arena and to watch it transform in a few short hours into a packed, noisy venue with 18,000 people in attendance.

Keeping those 18,000 spectators safe, comfortable, hydrated, fed, happy, and entertained through a three-hour hockey game is an epic task requiring the focus and dedication of hundreds of skilled and varied workers.

ASM employs a team of carpenters, riggers, engineers, security personnel, and affiliated staff to maintain and efficiently run the arena. Aramark depends on an army of skilled chefs, kitchen staff, cashiers, and wait staff to provide food and beverage services ranging from concessions to formal dining rooms. Both entities provide employees opportunities for growth within the ranks of the venue team as well as opportunity for advancement through transfer to venues in other cities across the country that ASM and Aramark operate or serve.

There was one overriding trait that Kat, Gary, and Nick emphasized as being key to a successful career in sports and entertainment or venue management: a passion for customer service. If a motivated young adult catches that bug, a career path in this industry has a very high ceiling.

In addition to this being the Academy’s first combined male-female visit, our visit to PPG Paints Arena was also the first time all Academy mentors gathered in one spot at the same time. I’ve said it before: the mentors are the second-most critical piece of the CNX Mentorship Academy effort, second only to the students. Watching the mentors in action that Saturday evening made me more convinced of that than ever.

November is a huge month for the CNX Mentorship Academy. We have scheduled visits to the Shell petrochemical facility (aka, the cracker) in Monaca, Pa., and the Beaver County Community College training facility. Both locations will open eyes to the scale and scope of one of the least understood major industries in western Pennsylvania: petrochemical manufacturing. Stay tuned for a report.

In the meantime, if you are interested in being a mentor in the CNX Mentorship Academy, if your business or organization would like to host a future site visit, or if you want to nominate a high school junior for the CNX Mentorship Academy’s next class in 2022-2023, please contact us at

The Mentorship Academy is an initiative of CNX Foundation and part of CNX’s commitment to investing in its local community. Designed for high school students who do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college, the Academy is focused on providing urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged regional Appalachian communities with greater opportunities—helping provide these young adults a bridge to family-sustaining careers. Following the mentorship program, students will have developed new relationships with peers and business leaders across western Pennsylvania, a new excitement for the region’s career opportunities and an understanding of how to pursue those careers.

It Takes More Than Sidney Crosby to Have a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh