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Pens Pleasantly Surprised by Ice Conditions

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite the increasingly warm weather in Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ first skate on the Winter Classic ice at Heinz Field was better than expected.

The main problem? The players may have overdressed, according to Chris Kunitz.

“It was good. It was a different experience,” he said of the ice. “I think that little bit of rain made the ice kind of wet on top so it takes a little bit more to push and get where you want to be. So maybe you get a little more tired quicker. But I think the ice held up well.”

What also helped was that the sun stayed hidden for most of the skate, making only occasional cameo appearances in the Penguins’ hour-long skate.

“It wasn’t too sunny, so there wasn’t too much of a glare,” Craig Adams said. “But it was still a little bit bright. It was warm out there. It was warmer than a lot of rinks we play in.

The ice isn’t ideal with this unexpected influx of balmy weather, as weather in the freezing temperatures with a bit of snow would be ideal. But soft ice is a small price to pay for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to skate outdoors at home in front of 70,000 fans, and – as the players pointed out – both teams will have to skate on the same ice.

“It was okay,” Evgeni Malkin said of the conditions. “But both teams play on the same ice. So it’s not a big deal.”

“You’re not moving as fast out there as normal arena ice,” Alex Goligoski said. “But I don’t think it would really make that much of a difference because everyone’s going to be in the same boat.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma said there were many positives from the day despite the malleability of the ice.

“The puck was surprisingly flat on it,” he said. “The guys commented on that given the conditions it was better than we thought it might be. The ice was soft. They were passing it fine ... Given the situation we were commenting that the ice was pretty good. The ice is different in every rink. We’re ready to play. I thought the boards and conditions were fine to play a game. It was an exciting day. I put it up there with some of my best experiences in hockey. I had a great time.”
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