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2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Capitals v. Penguins

Craig happy with ice, but knows more work needed

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The slight gashes in the ice were very new. Dan Craig created them with his skates shortly after noon on Wednesday, keeping a tradition alive of him being the first person to skate on his Winter Classic ice.

This wasn't just a guy taking a little twirl, though.

"It is very calculated," Craig told

Craig, of course, wanted to test his ice. That was priority No. 1.

But he chose between noon and 1 p.m. because come Saturday, that'll be about the time the Capitals and Penguins will be taking the ice for warm-ups prior to the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Craig wanted to know how the ice felt when he emerged out of the shadows and into the sunny areas.

2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by the numbers

NHL Public Relations

Firmly established as a New Year's Day tradition among fans, the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will mark the fourth consecutive season the NHL has played a regular-season outdoor game on New Year's Day. The Buffalo Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year's Day 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day 2009 and the Boston Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park on New Year's Day 2010.

Two of the NHL's biggest stars, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, bring their rivalry to the big stage of the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Their rivalry has blossomed into one of the most intriguing individual matchups in all of sports. Both No. 1 overall draft choices (Ovechkin 2004 and Crosby 2005), the superstars have been linked since they entered the League at the same time at the beginning of the 2005-06 NHL season.

Below is a look at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic "By the Numbers":

Zetterberg reflects on '09 Winter Classic

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Henrik Zetterberg knows what it's like to be at the mercy of the weather for a Winter Classic.
The forecast in the days leading up to the Detroit Red Wings' matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field isn't quite what the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are facing this season, but Zetterberg was still concerned about what Mother Nature would have in store on New Year's Day.

"A little bit," Zetterberg said. "I think we are always worried like it's going to snow, or even rain; it would be a little tough to play that game.

"But for us, I would say that we had the perfect conditions. You know, it was a great atmosphere. It was a little cold for the fans maybe, but for us we kept ourselves warm and we had some heaters going on the bench. So we were fine."

Pittsburgh mayor excited about Classic

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"One of the things that the Penguins have been tremendous with, and the NHL also as a partner, is allowing the community to get involved." -- Pittsburgh Mayor
Luke Ravenstahl

PITTSBURGH -- Looking comfortable in his Sidney Crosby jersey, a replica of what No. 87 will wear on New Year's Day, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Tuesday helped Dan Craig and a few select youth hockey players from the Pittsburgh I.C.E. program paint the blue crease on the north side of the rink.

Ravenstahl, 30, is confident that the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will show Pittsburgh is the most positive light.

"We're really excited about it for a lot of reasons, but most importantly from our perspective what it means to Pittsburgh and the image that we continue to change throughout the country and around the world," Ravenstahl said as he stood on the ice. "Of course we all know this is a great sports town and we get to show it off once again. The Penguins have been great with including the community with events up to and including Saturday's game. We see that with the young kids here painting the lines. Just the uniqueness of the event is something I know we're excited about."

Winter Classic ice build going right on schedule

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"Everything has to be done by 6 o'clock tonight. That's not an option. It has to get done by that time. Then we seal from there, about four hours, and the guys can call it a night."
-- Dan Craig

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Craig's ice is right on schedule.

Craig, the NHL's Facilities Operations Manager, told that the crew spent Monday night sealing the white paint with another quarter-inch of ice before leaving Heinz Field around 10 p.m. The crew returned at 6 a.m. Tuesday to start marking the lines and getting ready to put in the logos.

He was hoping to start painting by noon, but, "we finally got some really nice sunshine here in Pittsburgh so it delayed that area a bit." Craig said if they painted when the sun was shining the red and blue paint would take too long to freeze, so they had to wait until the sun left the area or went down completely.

NHL not worrying about Classic weather issues yet

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli said Tuesday afternoon that he's getting forecasts for Saturday that include scattered showers and a high of 54 degrees, but it's still way too early for the League to consider delaying or postponing the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on New Year's Day.

"All these maps are different," Renzulli told "I looked at one on and there is a channel coming all the way through the country that has Pittsburgh pegged right in the middle and it's just all green. (Monday) it said there was rain on Jan. 2, but today there it says no rain on the second and it's supposed to be clear and 30. A little movement either way and I think we can either catch it the day before or the day after. Or there could be a window on game day."

Renzulli said he and Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig have talked about contingency plans with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, COO John Collins and Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. However, they won't be able to present a clear picture to the League's executive staff until Thursday, when they'll start receiving daily rain patterns for the weekend.

Another Goldman favorite: Cold-Weather Chili

Duff Goldman - Celebrity Chef, 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is the home for all of Goldman's activities as the Celebrity Chef of the Winter Classic.

This is Goldman's third recipe for the Winter Classic. Duff's first recipe, for "Dig It Out Of The Corner" Nacho Casserole, can be found here. His second recipe, Wings Two Ways, can be found here. His final recipe, a desert, will run Thursday.

Duff's mule-kick, high-stick, cold-weather chili!

Alright hockey fans, you are in the parking lot of Heinz Field in JANUARY! You must be either crazy or a true hockey fan! We don't mind cold! We laugh at wind! But, add a little Pittsburgh weather and we do take action! To arms, hockey fans! Or at least to the chili bowl! Quick! Get a lot of hot, spicy meat into your body as quickly as possible! Cold weather...conquered.

Let's be prepared and make this chili at least 24 hours before leaving for the game.

Now, this is the way I make mine, but if you want more heat, just add it! You can use more jalapenos, chili powder, hot chili oil, tabasco (although this will add a layer of acidity to your chili, which is no bad thing), or any other spicy ingredient you like!

Weather concerns not a concern for NHL yet

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Craig and Don Renzulli believe Mother Nature will once again prove she's a hockey fan on New Year's Day.
The current weather forecast for Jan. 1 calls for showers and temperatures in the mid-40s, but Renzulli firmly believes the puck will drop in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. It just might be delayed a little while.

"We're getting updates twice a day right now and any changes we'll get them immediately," Renzulli, the NHL's Senior V.P. of Events, said in Monday afternoon's media briefing. "I've been watching the weather for the last two weeks and it's gone from snow to rain. I've got a feeling the hockey gods will be in our favor."

Sid enjoying his time back in Winter Classic spotlight

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Sidney Crosby considers himself lucky to have been part of the first Winter Classic, in Buffalo in 2008.

That feeling hasn't changed now that he's going to play outside again at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Crosby's Penguins will host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on New Year's Day at Heinz Field.

Crosby considers himself privileged once again to be part of the League's biggest regular-season moment, and he plans on enjoying every second of it, just as he did in 2008.

Sense of family serves ice crew well at Winter Classic

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Three of the brothers in this family run their own NHL rinks. Two are full-time mechanics back in Alberta. Two more hail from British Columbia, where they met each other working at, what else, an ice rink. Two are rookies, fresh-faced and in their early 20s with nothing but potential.
And, of course, we can't forget about the guys in charge, parents if you will. They steer the family in the right direction.
They're unique and they're fun. They're pranksters, but hard workers. They're close and they really love each other.
They are the ice crew for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field, and they are a blast.
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