When the Penguins take the ice New Year’s Day for the NHL Winter Classic, their environment won’t be the only difference.
The team will sport retro-looking uniforms for the unique outdoor game at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres, too, will sport retro uniforms that will be similar to the ones they wore in the 1980s. However, the Penguins are going with a more drastic change – to the original powder blue, navy blue and white color scheme the team first used when it entered the NHL in 1967.
“I think it’s pretty sharp,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “It’s a fun game. It’s one we want to win, but with all this buildup, it’s hard not to get excited for it.”
The Penguins will wear navy blue helmets and gloves. Their pants will be navy blue with white and powder blue stripes. However, the most-apparent change is with the jerseys, which will feature the vintage circular Penguins logo of the late 1960s.
|The Penguins' Winter Classic jersey |
“It’s different. It brings back old memories. It’s a neat change. For the outdoor game, I don’t think there’s a better place to do it,” Penguins winger Georges Laraque said. “This game is great. It reminds you of how you started to learn to play hockey outside.”
While the changes add to the aura surrounding the NHL Winter Classic, there was a large amount of effort put into coordinating the new equipment.
“We’ve probably been working on this for the last two and a half months. We’ve been going really hard here,” said Dana Heinze, the Penguins’ head equipment manager. “The last couple days, we’ve been lucky to have some practice days where we’ve been able to get the guys in the helmets, the gloves and the pants shells. I just want them to feel comfortable going into this game. This is a regular-season game we’re playing and it’s kind of a shock when these guys have to change their gear into something different.”
Cooperation has been key in using the new gear.
“The guys have been really good about switching their gear for us,” Heinze said. “Every guy’s equipment is still customized to the way that they use it now. They just happen to be blue and white. All the equipment companies have been great.
“It’s been quite a challenge and tied up quite a bit of my time, especially when we have to worry about regular-season games.”
The Penguins unveiled their new gear Friday at practice, so it should be broken in by New Year’s Day.
“We have two or three practices with it, so that should be enough for most guys,” Crosby said. “I don’t see that really being a huge issue. Some guys, I think, are wearing different skates, so they might be in a different boat there. I think it’ll be all right.”
Some players will use sticks that will appear to be made of wood.
“We haven’t unveiled them yet,” Heinze said. “It’ll be the exact same composite stick, but it’ll look like it’s made of wood.”
The Penguins took the lessons learned from the 2003 Heritage Classic, which featured the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens in an outdoor game.
“We’ve talked a little bit to some of the players who played in that game and I’ve talked to trainers from Montreal and Edmonton and got their advice. I think this will go more smoothly,” Heinze said. “We have special cold gear clothes for the players to wear under their equipment, the kind that is a little thicker than they normally wear, like what the NFL players wear. Our guys will be wearing that. We have tinted eye shields and eye black in case the sun is bright. If the players want to use that, they are more than welcome to switch.”