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Fanfare builds in city as Winter Classic truck visits

by Sergei J. Feldman /
NEW YORK -- It's a long journey between the official announcement of the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the highly-anticipated game itself.

Actually, the journey is about 1,450 miles.

Earlier today, the world's largest mobile refrigeration unit made its way to New York City's Rockefeller Plaza and NHL Powered by Reebok Store in midtown Manhattan as part of the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Truck Tour.

The expedition began in Toronto on Dec. 17 and will conclude at the site of this year's New Year's Day spectacle, Heinz Field, in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Christmas Eve, at which point the rink will begin getting built. Additional stops will include Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The 53-foot custom-built ice truck that stores all the specialized equipment that will be used to make the ice surface was featured on NBC's Weekend Today, where a throng of fans, die-hard and casual alike, marveled at the giant truck.

Right at Rockefeller Plaza, Brendan Shanahan, the vice president of hockey and business development for the NHL, was on hand talking about the long-awaited event between two of the League's most prolific teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, and the novelty of the event.

"First of all there are 70,000 people," he said. "You're outside, you're dealing with the wind, you're dealing with all these conditions that sound different, feels different -- all these conditions that we're not used to, there's no perfect environment."

Among the biggest draws will be the matchup itself.

"There will be two really excited rivals playing in the game," said Shanahan, a 600-plus goal scorer for the Devils, Blues, Whalers, Red Wings and Rangers. "These two teams are great teams and they don't like each other very much."

As for getting the event together, Shanahan gave credit where credit was due.

"It's a collective effort," he said. "It really is. It's just something that both the players and the League are so excited about."

After the television appearance, the truck drove just down the block and parked right outside the NHL Powered by Reebok Store. The giant truck is quite the powerful machine, but not so much when faced with the New York City Parking Authority.

The ice truck was not immune to some of the parking restrictions in Manhattan and was issued a ticket just outside the store.

The fine was worth it, though, as even more fans got the chance to catch a glimpse of the unique truck that has images of NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, along with other Winter Classic logos and information.

One of those fans was Kevin Christian, an 18-year-old Bucks County, Pa., native and University of Pittsburgh student, who was on vacation in New York. Christian was impressed with what he saw of the truck and looks forward to the New Year's Day showdown.

"It's pretty amazing," he said of the truck. "A pretty awesome thing to see."

Just like the game between the Pens and Caps.

"It's going to be great," Christian said. "There'll be the two best players in the League going head to head and it's such a strong rivalry with the two teams. It'll be very fun to watch it. I can't wait."

The nostalgic factor was a big reason for Christian's excitement.

"It brings things back to the old days," he said. "It brings the game back to its roots and that's what all the players talk about, too.

"It's the way hockey should be played."

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