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Family Matters

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
While the hockey world is keeping an eye on the atmosphere to see if the weather will affect the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the Penguins were enjoying a different kind of atmosphere on the North Shore on Friday.

Ten thousand fans in Heinz Field chanted as the Penguins left the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room and took to the newly-built ice rink at midfield. The players mainly had two words to describe the ambiance surrounding Friday’s events – “unbelievable” and “awesome.”

Matt Cooke (Getty Images)
After their practice, the Penguins took their families out on to the rink for a leisurely skate, as music blasted throughout the giant football stadium.

“The family skate was fun,” Craig Adams said. “It was neat to see the way the stadium looked and everything. Then to have (my kids and wife) around to skate a little bit was fun.”

Adams said the incredible aura made this practice unlike any other.

“We were out there having fun and looking around,” he said. “It didn’t really feel like a real practice.”

Fans got a glimpse of what family skates are like in the first episode of HBO Sports’ groundbreaking series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.”

The day after the Penguins defeated Buffalo for the team’s 12th-straight win, the Penguins and their families took to CONSOL Energy Center’s ice for the annual Holiday Party.

RELATED: Family Skate Photo Gallery >>

But the skate on Friday was even more special for the players.

“It was awesome,” Pascal Dupuis said. “My wife and two of my kids were skating today. It started to get sunny a little bit, so it was nice to be outdoors.”

“It was great,” Chris Kunitz said. “Hopefully, it’s something everyone can experience in their career.”

Adams is experiencing his second Winter Classic, as he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks when they faced Detroit at Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day 2009.

Craig Adams and son, Rhys
“I was lucky enough to play in one of these in Chicago,” Adams said. “Each one is unique, and I think the guys on both teams should consider themselves pretty lucky just to come in here and practice and play in a football stadium in front of a whole bunch of people. It’s a lot of fun.”

Even though Adams played in one Winter Classic and won two Stanley Cups (one with Carolina in 2006 and one with Pittsburgh in 2009), thanks to these family skates and the HBO reality show, another member of his family is quickly gaining recognition.

His 3-year-old son, Rhys, made two adorable cameos on “24/7” – one where he hopped around on his skates before the Holiday Party, and one where he correctly pointed out each Penguins player’s portrait along the wall in the locker room – that was until his neck got tired.

“Yeah, he’s the star of the family,” Adams joked. “He definitely passed me up a long time ago.”
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