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Renzulli talks setup for Winter Classic

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

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Renzulli talks setup for Winter Classic
PITTSBURGH -- Don Renzulli has been doing this long enough to know what to expect Monday afternoon when he's scheduled to answer questions from the local media.

"The big questions we're going to start to get will be all about weather," Renzulli, the NHL's Senior V.P. of Events, told Sunday. "That's what the stories for the week will be about now. They're going to start talking about it on television."

Renzulli doesn't disparage the storyline. He understands it's valid considering the current weather forecast for New Year's Day.

Rain and temperatures in the low to mid 50s doesn't exactly scream outdoor hockey weather.

But, anything Renzulli says now will simply be speculation. Even the most accurate weatherman in the world wouldn't be able to say with certainty that the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic would have to be delayed or postponed until Jan. 2.

"You can plan for whatever but until you get there you don't understand what you have coming at you," Renzulli said. "If it rains, yeah, we're going to have to make a call. It's going to be Gary (Bettman) and Colie (Campbell) and the two GMs saying there is no way we can play it, or let's hang out as long as we can because our window with NBC is so long. My guess is that's what we'll do. If it's going to rain all day then we're going to have to make some decisions on what we should do. Right now it says the second is supposed to be partly sunny and cold, so you just never know."

The dreary New Year's Day forecast can't halt work now. Renzulli said the most important thing he and his staff can do is follow along with the schedule and change on the fly when necessary.

"We can play at 50 degrees, and if it's a light shower I'm sure we can play in that," Renzulli said. "But, there is no way we can stop now because it says rain. We have to keep moving forward, get the thing set up."

The expected warmer climate for New Year's Day has forced Renzulli to change the plan for getting white on the field. They want a white field to present a wintry image, but any snow that fell Sunday will be melted by then and they can't make fake snow because it has to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit for that to last.

So, Renzulli said they're going to test how white paint would look on the grass field and it's possible they could end up painting all the grass white before painting some logos on the field. He said it could take two days to get all the painting done.

"We have to play it out a little bit," he said. "We have to start making decisions regardless of what else we can do, and that's what we started doing today. I mean, if it snows I don't care about what we paint. It'll get covered and we'll be fine anyway. If we don't start doing that stuff now we'll never get it done."

However, the blizzard in New York is wreaking havoc on the travel plans for several NHL employees who are still hoping to get here Sunday. Renzulli said he's already heard of one flight cancellation and somebody else told him he was thinking about driving here.

"I don't know where everybody else is. I have a feeling if they don't get out early they're not getting out," he said. "It's not going to set us back because everybody will pick up the pieces."

There was still a relative calm around the NHL Events crew on Sunday, but Monday promises to be Renzulli's biggest day on site since arriving last Thursday.

The auxiliary rink will start to get put together. Winter Classic decorations will start to go up both inside and outside the stadium. The 1,500 auxiliary seats the NHL is bringing in for the south end zone will be put into place. Broadcast positions, which will be situated in section 135, will be set up.

The loading dock here at Heinz Field will be a busy place as several deliveries start to come in for the NHL, NBC, CBC, NHL Network and Aramark. Renzulli said 23 trucks, generators and trailers will get parked in the loading dock area.

"Outside of what Dan (Craig) is doing outside with the guys there is not a lot of big things doing because it's Sunday," Renzulli said. "Tomorrow there will be a lot of people here. The Steelers' staff will be back in the building. There will be a lot of people roaming around tomorrow and it just builds throughout the week. Everybody has taken the holiday and e-mail is very light, but now people will start to wake up."

And the spotlight will shine on Heinz Field, on the NHL Winter Classic.

Renzulli is ready for it. He's been waiting.

"I've been looking at all the weather maps for two days and it doesn't look good, but I don't think they were expecting a blizzard in New York three days ago and look what happened," Renzulli said. "All of a sudden if the thing turns a little bit, we don't need much."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl.