Amateur hockey director takes unique route to Penguins gig – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Mark Shuttleworth’s path to a career in professional hockey was hardly typical.





The Penguins director of amateur hockey originally went to Duquesne University to study music and wound up earning a degree in secondary education communication arts. Shuttleworth, a Pleasant Hills native and Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, did church youth work in the early 1980s before helping to manage the former Neville Ice Arena on the South Side.





Shuttleworth credits that experience, along with being a hockey dad and a uncle, for contributing to a career as one of the organization’s most vital resources to its community outreach. If there’s a youth tournament at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Shuttleworth’s there. Adult league, same deal.







It’s a job he never once envisioned holding when he was younger but also one that Shuttleworth, now 62, loves.





“I’m a guy who did not major in anything that would prepare me to work in professional sports and did not see myself working in professional sports,” Shuttleworth said. “I’m pretty lucky to have stumbled into the position I’m in and to be able to work for the Penguins for almost 20 years now.”





Shuttleworth was hired on Oct. 26, 1998, 13 days after the Penguins declared bankruptcy.





Before he started with the team, Shuttleworth held a similar position at the South Side rink, which collapsed due to snow in 2010 and has since been demolished.




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The rink, the Penguins practice facility in the 1970s and located atop 21st street, held high school games and housed an amateur hockey association, cutting a path into the community that enabled Shuttleworth to make numerous connections.





“I got to know an inordinate number of people in the youth hockey community,” Shuttleworth said. “During the [Howard] Baldwin years, they didn’t replace their youth hockey guy that had left. They were looking for someone to connect with the youth hockey community. I was fortunate enough to know a lot of people.”





Shuttleworth started at the rink to work with his brother Paul, who leased it from the city, and that followed a stint from 1985-1992 where Mark had moved to Greenville, S.C., to pursue a job organizing youth camps and retreats at a church.





It was there, odd as it may seem, that Shuttleworth truly fell in love with hockey.





During the Penguins’ rise to prominence in the early 1990s, Shuttleworth began taking a heightened interest in the team as a way to connect with home.





He’d even have his father mail him copies of the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette, and he would set his alarm for 2 a.m. to watch the games when they were rebroadcast on a local network down there.





“I was living vicariously through the team,” Shuttleworth joked.





In addition to promoting events and tournaments and making sure that enough people sign up, Shuttleworth handles a lot of the logistics: how teams are divided, crafting the schedule, hiring officials, directing participants once they arrive on-site and ensuring everyone has a positive experience.





It’s a job he takes a great deal of pride in, making sure even the worst team walks away happy.





“If you come in and the event is organized, you know where to go to check-in, you know where to go to get to the locker rooms, where you line up to go out on the ice, the schedule is such that you’re going to run on time, that’s important,” Shuttleworth said. “So even a team that maybe isn’t winning, they still come away with a good experience because everything has been laid out nicely for them.”





Think of that as Shuttleworth’s own composition.





The Bethel Park resident maintains his music career, still playing solo gigs and strumming an eclectic range of tunes that include anything from Motown to Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Lumineers.





Shuttleworth, a guitarist, performs with a 17-piece jazz ensemble once a month and every year does a charity event for Thomas Jefferson with several folks who’ve come through the school’s jazz program.





“Each job led to another one,” Shuttleworth insisted. “There was no plan.”





But there is definitely a plan for how he approaches hockey and trying to do his job well. He maintained his connections in the local hockey community through his son Carl (now 31) and nephew Paul’s careers.





Shuttleworth tries to remember things that were important to fellow hockey parents and implement them into his job now.





Seeing someone enjoy real benefits from a league or tournament never gets old for Shuttleworth.





“There’s always immediate gratification of seeing people sign up and get involved in a program,” Shuttleworth said. “You get positive feedback with how much somebody’s kid is enjoying it or how much the adult league guys are enjoying the league.





“It’s rewarding to see that people appreciate what you’re doing, are having a good time and are benefiting from it. In some way, they feel like their life has been enhanced by doing something that you get to have a part in making happen for them.”





Jason Mackey: jmackey@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.



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