Winter Classic could be held at Heinz Field

Outdoor game Jan. 1 would pit Penguins' Crosby, Capitals' Ovechkin

March 29, 2010|By From Sun news services

Pittsburgh is making a strong push to host the NHL's Winter Classic on Jan. 1, matching the league's signature stars in the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin at Heinz Field.

A person with knowledge of the discussions told the Associated Press on Sunday that Pittsburgh is in a strong position to be chosen as the host.

The league does not reveal the Winter Classic site until after the playoffs, and Penguins officials declined to comment Sunday, but city officials are pushing hard for the game and the Steelers are amenable to playing it at Heinz Field. Previously, the Pittsburgh Pirates lobbied for a Winter Classic at PNC Park, but its capacity of 38,496 is far below Heinz Field's 65,050 and it is not being considered.

Yankee Stadium was discussed as a possible Winter Classic site next season, until the stadium landed a college bowl game that will be played the week after Christmas.

An Ovechkin-Crosby outdoors game would offer an attractive matchup. The players have a heated rivalry and have won the past three Most Valuable Player awards - Crosby in 2007, Ovechkin in 2008 and 2009.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he has no problems with his team being selected for the game, though he'd liked to see Washington considered as the host city.

"I'd like to be involved with it," Boudreau said. "Why would I be opposed to it? Like anything else, if we were lucky enough to be involved in that game, I'd love to have it in our area to show the country how good of fans we have, but that's not for me to decide."

Staging the Winter Classic at Heinz Field the weekend before the NFL playoffs begin would mean the Steelers could not play home games on the final two Sundays of the regular season so that the ice surface could be constructed.

However, the NFL stages Thursday night games the final two months of the season, so there is a possibility the Steelers could play at home Dec. 23, before turning the stadium over to the NHL. There would be time to convert the stadium back to football in time for any playoff game the following weekend, even if the Winter Classic must be postponed one day because of bad weather.

Flames 5, Capitals 3
Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves and Calgary moved within four points of eighth-place Colorado in the Western Conference.

Ovechkin got his 46th goal for Washington and also had an assist to reach the 100-point mark for the fourth time in his five-year career.

David Steckel and Mathieu Perreault also scored for the Capitals, who lost at home in regulation for only the fifth time in 36 games this season.

"We didn't have any energy," Boudreau said. "It looked like we were skating in quicksand. Their sense of urgency was so tremendous."

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