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Pens take cabs to Central Park rink for outdoor skate

by Deborah Francisco
How many New York City taxi cabs does it take to transport an entire NHL team?

The Pittsburgh Penguins found out Saturday morning when their team bus collided with a car at Columbus Circle en route to Central Park where they practiced outdoors at Lasker Rink. The team -- dressed in full gear -- proceeded to hail 10 yellow taxi cabs to make the final leg of the short journey from Madison Square Garden to Central Park.

"It was quite a sight," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think the gentleman involved in the accident backed off a little bit when he saw a whole hockey team get out with sticks and gloves in their hands -- and if he had known anything about last night, that may be why he backed off."

The fully-dressed hockey players enjoyed the true New York experience of catching a cab.

"We were scrambling for cabs to get over there," forward Craig Adams told "We were in track suits and helmets and sticks and gloves and stuff, so it was fun. It was an adventure."

Adams shared his cab with Alex Goligoski, Ben Lovejoy and goaltender Brent Johnson.

"We had the big SUV cab because Johnny had all his goalie gear," Adams said. "I don't think the cab driver cared, but I don't think he was a big hockey fan."

The team took it in stride though, as the taxis dropped them off at the Northeast corner of Central Park. They walked past a pack of young hockey fans that mobbed them, signing autographs along the way.

But for a group of guys who play 82 or more games a season, skating on an outdoor surface is always a sweet treat -- one that Bylsma couldn't pass up. Rather than putting the team through a normal practice the coach opted for a classic game of shinny.

"It was great to get outdoors and play another game outside this season," Bylsma said.

Even though the Penguins relished the chance to play in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Heinz Field, the weather (37 degrees Fahrenheit) was more agreeable for outdoor hockey. Snowflakes gently decorated the scene as the team played a hearty game of four-on-four.

"It was kind of a treat. We had an adventure getting over there but it's a great rink and the weather was perfect, so we had a lot of fun and a lot of kids watched. It was a good day for sure." -- Craig Adams

The Penguins were split into two squads, with Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes for the Black crew and Brent Johnson in net for White. First team to reach five goals would be the winner, and the loser would skate laps.

"The white team kind of complained that they played against the wind," Pascal Dupuis said. "But the black team won."

Following two rounds of first-one-to-five, the squads competed in a shootout in which the White team prevailed.

"We lost the game, but we won in the shootout so we still came out even," Adams said.

From backyard rinks all across North America and Europe, the Penguins enjoyed the chance to play on New York City's backyard rink -- and the journey getting there was fun too.

"It was kind of a treat," said Adams, who grew up playing on a lake near Calgary. "We had an adventure getting over there but it's a great rink and the weather was perfect, so we had a lot of fun and a lot of kids watched. It was a good day for sure."

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