PITTSBURGH -- They say winning never gets old.
Well, neither does playing in the annual Winter Classic.
Unless, of course, you merely receive a Certificate of Participation, as was the case with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Maxime Talbot when his team visited Buffalo in the first such event, Jan. 1, 2008.
Talbot was nursing an injury at the time and was reduced to a spectator with a rooting interest. Now, as the hockey world prepares for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Jan. 1, 2011, Talbot looks forward to actually taking the ice.
"It's a special event," Talbot said. "Everything around it is great. It's a great feeling and I think it's going to be pretty interesting."
Everyone involved feels privileged to be part of such a unique event, but for Talbot, playing against the archrival Washington Capitals in the event makes it that much more of a draw.
"If you would've said we would be playing against Columbus or Atlanta, yes, it would've been nice," he said. "But playing Washington makes it even more special. It's two great teams. The rivalry has been tremendous. You're definitely going to expect a big show."
Teammate Pascal Dupuis agreed with Talbot.
"You have the top two guys in the League," he said, referring to Pens captain Sidney Crosby and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. "The biggest leaders. I don't think it gets much more exciting than that."
Dupuis joined the Penguins after their first Winter Classic, but was a big fan of the spectacle then and looks forward to being a contributor now.
"It was something really cool, actually," he said, referring to his initial thoughts on the idea of playing in an outdoor NHL game. "It's going to be amazing, especially here at Heinz Field. I don't think there'll be a bad ticket."
The general sentiment of the Winter Classic is it takes players back to their hockey roots, when they skated on ponds in unmentionable temperatures for the pure love of the game.
Dupuis is no exception, and basked in the nostalgia of his hockey upbringing.
"I did play a lot of pond hockey," he said. "It's where you polish your skills and freeze your toes."
And now he'll get the chance to get his feet wet while playing in one of the most anticipated hockey games of the season.