The holidays in Pittsburgh this year was pretty much all hockey, all the time. The city played host to the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and it was hockey fever leading up to the game. The Winter Classic is in its 4th year and is the annual outdoor hockey game played on New Year’s Day. The day after Christmas I went out to run errands and saw countless people in Winter Classic jerseys, Penguins hats, etc. – it was definitely a hockey Christmas in the ‘Burgh! I spent the better part of both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrating hockey, the Penguins and taking part in the festivities.
As part of the game’s festivities, an alumni game was held on New Year’s Eve morning featuring retired Penguins and Capitals players. Only 10,000 tickets were sold and I had lucky Ticketmaster fingers and managed to get two! My sister and I headed downtown early in the morning for the 9:30am game and waited for the puck to drop. (Yes, hot chocolate in a $6.50 souvenir mug was a must.)
The highlight? Seeing Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Bob Errey, Phil Bourque, and countless others that I grew up watching play again.
The lowlight? It wasn’t an actual competitive game. It was slow, the players didn’t even wear helmets. They only played 2 periods, the game ended in a 5-5 tie and there was no overtime or a shoot out. Bummer.
The rest of the day and part of the evening was spent milling around the outside of Heinz Field. There were tents set up with games, food, merchandise, etc. A real festival-type atmosphere. There was also a 2nd rink built outside where some youth games were played, including one featuring Sidney Crosby’s old team versus Malkin’s old team. Sid made an appearance behind the bench:
The actual Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day was moved from 1pm to 8pm due to rain, and I think everyone was thrilled. No getting up early on New Year’s Day, more time to tailgate, and a hockey game under the lights.
I was able to meet up with family and friends for tailgating and then enjoy the game. It was a total bummer that we lost (especially to the Capitals), but the game and everything surrounding it was amazing. It was an awesome atmosphere and I’m so glad I got to experience it!
You can view all of my photos from both events on Flickr:
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