of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting today that the NHL is
leaning towards the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins
facing off in the 2011 Winter Classic, to be played at Heinz Field.
There has been no confirmation on this news from the Penguins or
Capitals, and I’ve been told by NHL sources that no announcement is
expected anytime soon. So right now this is just pure speculation, based
solely on Molinari’s report.
There was always a good possibility that Alex Ovechkin and the
Capitals would be involved in the Classic next season — presumably at
home — but another nationally televised matchup between the Penguins
and Capitals in the biggest regular season game for the NHL makes sense,
as far as marketing the NHL’s two biggest teams go. But what about the
rest of the NHL?
Nate Ewell, director of media relations for the
Capitals, had this to say on Twitter
about the report when asked about the Caps playing the Penguins:
Was sad when reports weren’t true about Caps in
2010 Winter Classic. Can’t say the same personally if these 2011 reports
I can’t justify them
playing in another one when
24 teams haven’t had the chance
issue is over the Penguins hosting the Winter Classic, when they’ve
already appeared in one. The goal by the NHL was to spread the Classic
around the league– supposedly– so it’s understandable when there is some resistance
to the Penguins getting another one so soon.
There are some logistical problems that would need to be addressed, however, before an official
announcement is even made. For one, the Penguins are opening a new arena
this season; hosting the Winter Classic would take away a valuable home
game at the new venue. There’s also the small issue of playing the game
at the home field of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Says
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:
says that “approximately two weeks” will be needed to
build and prep an outdoor rink, Molinari also says that the Steelers are
expected to host their home finale on Thursday, December 23, which
would give the crew less than nine days to cover the turf with a
platform coated in ice. The possibility that the Steelers will host a
playoff game in the wild-card round would give the powers-that-be at
least a week to restore the venue to its football configuration.
issue of playing at Heinz Field is most likely the biggest stumbling
block, not the whole “but the Pens already played in a Winter Classic”
As of now, this is just a report that has sparked debate
across the hockey-verse on a quiet Sunday. But still, one more piece to
the intense rivalry built between the Capitals and Penguins franchises.