NHL unveils Winter Classic plans
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby talks to the media during Tuesday's press conference in regards to the Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
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On a sunny July day, with temperatures in the 80s at Heinz Field, even the drawing of a penguin with a winter scarf around its neck looked hot.
The picture of the mascot was part of the Penguins' new logo that will be used in conjunction with the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. They will meet Washington in the league's fourth Winter Classic Jan. 1 on a rink centered on the Steelers' playing field.
A Capitals logo and one for the game -- featuring a yellow bridge reminiscent of those along the Allegheny River -- also were unveiled at a news conference Tuesday that was more about promotion than details.
The game previously had been announced, but the news conference afforded representatives from the NHL, Penguins, Capitals and Steelers the chance to get together and discuss the game.
One thing that struck the Penguins' attendees is the vantage point. The rink was loosely laid out on the field for the event.
"We're pretty much standing where the ice is going to be, and, if you look around, I don't think there's going to be a bad ticket in the place," said Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis, one of several Penguins who have become stout Steelers fans. "It's a great stadium to watch some football, and it's probably going to be a great place to watch some hockey, too."
The rink will be built on a condensed timetable compared with the first three Winter Classics because the Steelers' final regular-season home game will be Dec. 23.
"The field we're going to be playing on the week before will come out, the rink will be built, and then, hopefully, we'll be preparing for a home playoff game shortly after that, and we'll bring in a whole new sod for that," Steelers president Art Rooney II said.
Because of that timetable and the possibility of an NFL playoff game after the Winter Classic, most of what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called "ancillary" events can't be planned for some time. They will include a free spectator plaza, Bettman said, and there is interest in including high school, college and perhaps minor league hockey events, but some of those might be at other rinks in the area.
This was about the main event, though.
"If you love rivalries, Capitals-Penguins may be our best," Bettman said. "If you enjoy the site of team captains providing passionate leadership and game-breaking skill, I don't think you can do much better than Sidney Crosby [of the Penguins] and Alexander Ovechkin [of Washington]. And if you can't get enough star power, both of these teams are loaded with it.
"And if you love the fact -- as we do -- that Jan. 1 is the day we welcome the new year with a great outdoor event, that celebrates the roots of our game no matter which team you root for, no matter which rivalry you prefer, then this 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic here at Heinz Field will be a must-see moment."
Just who will get to see the event from the 65,000-seat stadium remains to be seen. Ticket details will not be available for perhaps several weeks, although the Penguins have said their season ticket-holders and suite patrons will get a chance to buy tickets. The NHL, Steelers and Capitals also will get an allotment.
Bettman said the Winter Classic "has become an extremely hot ticket, perhaps one of the hottest tickets in all of sports. This game always sells out, and the demand for tickets actually reaches into the hundreds of thousands."
Fans can register at www.nhl.com to get alerts for Winter Classic ticket information when it becomes available.
Those involved with the game are hoping for much different weather the next time they convene at Heinz Field -- something more like the first Winter Classic, in 2008, when Crosby scored the shootout winner as the Penguins beat Buffalo, 2-1, at snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"It was kind of crazy," Crosby said. "It was a wild day. It was snowing and it was cold -- everything the Winter Classic was built up to be. It was a pretty amazing opportunity to have a chance to win it like that. I don't remember a lot about it. I just remember not being able to see the puck very much. It was covered [with snow]. It was a pretty unique experience, and we have another chance to have some good memories.
"You're outside. Anything can happen. Hopefully, the weather will agree with us."
First Published July 28, 2010 12:00 am