The fourth installment of the NHL’s Winter Classic went on as planned Saturday but with a few changes and quite a few worries. The months leading up to the game, the excitement around the area was at an all time high for the Penguins. The two faces of the league in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby were going to lead their teams on New Years day at Heinz Field in front of 68,000 people. Tickets were as hard to come by as Super Bowl tickets are. When I received mine, I had chills to know I’d be able to witness this. Nothing could be better. Or so we thought.
A few weeks ago, the NHL and HBO aired their first episode of 24/7, a Hard Knocks type of show that gives fan total access to the Caps and Pens leading up to the big game. It kept the interest and had everyone still excited. Then the weather report was announced. On January 1st, 2011, it was supposed to be 55 degrees with a 50% chance of rain. Seriously? Rain this time of year? With the blistering cold we have had, it decides to warm up this one weekend? Panic started to set in with how the ice would hold up and how the rain will affect the game. Talks of moving it to a night game or to Sunday took place and yes, even canceling the event and rescheduling it for a make up at the Consol Energy Center even were brought up. Needless to say, people were panicking and one guy said that 3 months ago, he was offered 5 times the face value on his tickets and as of this past Monday, he couldn’t get face value for them. A disaster in the making right?
Word came out on New Years Eve that the game was going to be pushed back to 8 p.m. Saturday which excited me because I could have more fun New Years but more importantly it meant it was the first outdoor game under the lights in NHL history. The excitement started to pick up knowing the game wouldn’t have to compete with the NFL on Sunday and that it was going to avoid most of the rain. That is until the NHL released a press release on Friday stating that if the weather is bad after 2 periods of play, the game will be called as is and if it is tied, the Shootout will take place in Washington in February before the start of their next game. No overtime will be played, it will instead go right to a shootout if need be. Risking the integrity of the game and changing the rules? That along with the horrible reviews of the Alumni game on Friday had people up in arms again.
When it came time for the game and we could tell it was gonna go on, it was then that we realized what we were experiencing. Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis and “Super” Mario Lemieux dropped the ceremonial first pucks and the game was on. Neither Crosby or Ovechkin tallied a point in the contest and Eric Fehr became a household name with 2 goals in the 3-1 win for the Capitals. Even though it was a loss and let’s be honest, a boring, sloppy game, it still made for one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing Jordan Staal come back was a bonus as well as Ovechkin falling on his face coming across the blue line. The NHL overcame the adversity and the conditions to put on a great event and though they could have handled things better, it went off without a 2 period game or any injuries due to the rain. While it wasn’t the post card game that the first Winter Classic was in Buffalo, it will still be remembered at the first (and hopefully last) rainy night game.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com