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Crosby a happy host in second Winter Classic

by Shawn P. Roarke /
PITTSBURGH -- Despite the myriad of incredible moments that already litter his still-young NHL career, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby takes little for granted.

He understands he has been blessed with the opportunity to play in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, his second such game in the four-year history of the New Year's Day hockey spectacle.

Crosby was the star of the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008, scoring the deciding goal against host Buffalo in a shootout through a snow squall at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Now, he gets a chance to top that iconic moment this New Year's Day when his Penguins host the rival Washington Capitals at Heinz Field.

Throughout a question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday, Crosby repeatedly stressed how fortunate he and his teammates are to take part in another installment of what has become the signature event of the NHL regular season.

Crosby also talked about the white-hot rivalry these two teams have developed over the past six years, his thoughts on playing in the home of the Steelers and the odds of him being a successful football player.

Q: Your thoughts on playing here Jan. 1?

CROSBY: It's a huge crowd, and to see the ice out here, it looks kind of small. Obviously all the focus is on the game, so it's an exciting time. To have that and be at home, we feel pretty lucky.

Q: How excited were you to be a part of the first game? And how excited are you to once again be involved in this one at home?

CROSBY: As everyone was saying earlier, it was a lot of hard work by everyone -- the Steelers, our team and Washington -- to make it all work. As players, we are the ones that benefit from it. We have an unbelievable chance to have great memories and play in a special event like this. I think we all appreciate it and I'm sure all the fans here and in Washington appreciate the fact that they get to see their favorite team play. So, I think everyone benefits.

Q: The way this is configured, it seems that the sightlines will be pretty good. Do you get a sense of that from down here on the field?

CROSBY: I think it's great. I thought Buffalo was great and I see as another opportunity for fans to enjoy an outdoor game and for us as players to play in one. It seems like this is a great set-up. I don't know what the baseball stadiums were like, but this one seems like a pretty normal fit. Everybody should be able to see everything.

Q: Is there a kinship between Pittsburgh's pro athletes?

CROSBY: Definitely. It's a tight community. Everybody is pulling for each other and I don't think that is ever going to change. We see a ton of football guys at our games and we support them. We're not around as much for the baseball season, but I think everyone is collectively pulling for one another and happy to see everyone have success. That's the unique thing and the unique opportunity you get being a professional athlete in Pittsburgh. It is a great sports town and the players pull for one another.

Q: Have you been to a football game here?

CROSBY: I have been to a few, yeah.

Q: Can you imagine now being out here playing in front of that kind of boisterism, if you will?

CROSBY: It's going be great. We played our (Winter Classic) on the road, and to have our fans here -- and we expect Washington fans here, too -- but we hope to be the majority. We'll be excited. This, like I said, is an opportunity that guys appreciate. Only a couple of teams get to do this every year. To be at home and to feel this excitement, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Q: Do you think you could play fullback like Mr. Rooney said?

CROSBY: I don't think so. Those guys are a little big for me.

Q: A lot has been made about the rivalry between you and (Alex) Ovechkin, but can you talk about what has made the intensity between the Penguins and the Capitals -- especially last year you had a pretty nasty game?

CROSBY: That's just the way it has developed. It's kind of hard. The build-up is always there for every game. The games are under a microscope and the spotlight is on the two teams every time they play. If you watch every single game throughout the 82 games, you could find little battles in the game, too. But that one is closely watched. You look at both teams and the players they have and it is a natural rivalry with the way the teams have played and the history. It's pretty normal
Q: Can this game do anything to intensify that rivalry?

CROSBY: When you look at the playoffs, I don't think you can imagine it being more intense than it already is. It's there. This will add to it. This will be another storyline, another event with the two teams, but I can't see it being any more intense than it already is, and if it is, then great. We're going to see a great hockey game.

Q: This place is going to be a little more cozy than Buffalo, isn't it?

CROSBY: I don't know, we'll see. To be at home, that's nice. People here are great sports fans and for them to be able to watch this game and experience it, they deserve it. We want to put on a good show for them and hopefully, like I said, get the win.

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