Paul Goes to the Winter Classic
Dakota Midday - 01/05/2011
I had been looking forward to the 2011 Winter Classic since it was announced that it would be played in Pittsburgh. Professional hockey outdoors is unusual to begin with but little did we know just how strange this day would be, wonderful but weird. As a member of the media, I was able to wangle a press credential which afforded me an opportunity to skate on the ice sheet at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, two days before the game between the Penguins and Capitals was played. As I was conducting interviews, I noticed that moisture from a fine mist that was falling had accumulated on my digital recorder. The temperature that day was pushing 40 degrees. By game day it was up near 60. As I walked along the banks of the Ohio River on my way to the Stadium, a low hanging fog had formed over the water. Rain had already pushed the drop of the puck back to 8 p.m., allowing the nearly 70,000 fans descending upon Heinz Field more time to soak in the warmth and get in some extra tailgating.
It seemed like all of Pittsburgh and, for that matter, Washington, D.C., had shown up for this historic event. If there was anyone not wearing a hockey jersey, I didn't notice them. All along the river front area, people were partying. Some had even set up hockey nets and were playing street hockey.
Once inside, the fans were treated to a spirited if sloppy game. Despite the temperature still being in the 50s at game time, the ice was holding up pretty well and the Penguins held a 1-0 lead early in the second period. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Capitals rallied with two goals in the second to take a 2-1 lead. In the third period, the rains came but the puck was still moving well. Each team pumped over thirty shots on goal but the Caps ended up winning 3-1, primarily because, unlike the Penguins, they simplified their game plan. It wasn't pretty but Washington's late game "rope a dope" defense worked.
After the game Penguins center Jordan Staal, playing in his first game of the season after recovering from multiple injuries, said that despite the conditions, it was a game well worth playing. Just about anyone who was there would agree.
See photos of Paul at the Winter Classic
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