Even though the Penguins and their fans have known for months that the city of Pittsburgh and Heinz Field will be hosting the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic, the NHL and all the combined parties came together with an official announcement on the field Tuesday afternoon.
On the grass at the center of the Steelers’ home stadium, a podium was erected as the top brass for the NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Steelers and local government officials gathered for the announcement.
|The Penguins unveiled their Winter Classic logo, which is the original logo from the team's inaugural season in 1967. |
“I can speak for (Penguins owners) Mario (Lemieux) and Ron Burkle, about how excited we are for the Penguins to be hosting the Winter Classic,” Penguins president David Morehouse said. “Pittsburgh has always been a great sports town, and it’s always been a football town. But with the help of Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby
and all the players over the past few years with the Penguins, and with the official announcement of hosting the Winter Classic, Pittsburgh has now become a hockey town, and it will always be a hockey town.”
“When we were first talking about it I had some trepidation about whether we were going to be able to fit the ice onto this field in time to keep our football season going,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. “We’re very excited about seeing an ice rink built out here in the middle of Heinz Field in December. It will be an exciting day for everybody connected with sports in Pittsburgh, and hockey fans all around the world.“
The NHL set up a mock outline of boards on the grass, which encased the seats and stage, to illustrate where the ice rink will sit on Heinz Field.
“It’s nice to get out here and get a feel for it, and the set up of the rink,” said Crosby, who had a memorable moment in the inaugural 2008 Winter Classic Game in Buffalo when he scored the shootout-winning goal. “I think they have a week to put it all together, but it’s home. It’s nice to be home and playing that game.
“As teams we are fortunate to play in them and get these opportunities. It’s not your typical game. I think as a player you try to enjoy it all, take it all in and, most importantly, win it.”
It was at the first Winter Classic in Buffalo that the seeds of Pittsburgh's hosting the event started to take root.
“I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo,” Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. “I had the opportunity to sit with Mario Lemieux and David Morehouse. I remember a conversation during the course of that game between David and I, where we said that we had to bring this game to Pittsburgh. Here we are four years later, in large part between the collaboration between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Commissioner Bettman and the NHL.”
And other than the festivities that go along with a worldwide event like the Winter Classic, there should also be plenty of drama to play out on the ice.
“If you love rivalries, Capitals-Penguins may be our best,” Bettman said. “If you enjoy the sight of team captains providing passionate leadership and game-breaking skill, I don’t think you can do much better than Sidney Crosby
and Alex Ovechkin. If you can’t get enough star power, both of these teams are loaded with it.
“This season we get to witness the (Penguins) open the CONSOL Energy Center for hockey on Oct. 7, and less than three months later we’ll turn this magnificent stadium, Heinz Field, into the center of the hockey universe.”
“It’s special,” said Pascal Dupuis
, who has yet to participant in a Winter Classic. “Being from Quebec, we grew up playing outdoors. It’s going to be amazing, especially here at Heinz Field, a great stadium. Just looking around and seeing how big it is, it’s going to be great.”
On Jan. 1, 2011 the Penguins will get to experience what the Steelers experience every Sunday, running through the tunnels of Heinz Field to be greeted by nearly 70,000 ravenous fans, twirling towels and filling the air of the North Shore with cacophonous cheers of adulation.
“When we walked out in Buffalo you can see why guys are so pumped up every week to play football seeing the crowd that they play in front of,” Crosby said. “It’s a huge crowd. Looking at the ice out here, it looks kind small. Obviously, all the focus is on the game. It’s an exciting time. To be at home and have that, we feel pretty lucky.”Note:
The Penguins' Winter Classic logo is the emblem that the team used during their inaugural season in 1967. However, the club has never worn the logo since the jersey that season featured a diagonal "PITTSBURGH." The actual jersey design will be released at a later date.