At a "state of the union" press conference today in Chicago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially revealed the world's worst-kept secret.
EN Says: As Pittsburghers, we're thrilled. This is yet another chance to showcase our lovely city.
From a hockey standpoint, we're a little mixed on this. It does seem like overkill to have the Penguins involved in another high profile event like this again. Why can't this game be moved to another venue with another team? Why not Minnesota with the shiny new Target Field? Why not Colorado at Invesco Field? Heck... why not New York?
There are tons of practical reasons to pick the Penguins over other teams, most notably television ratings in America, but there is a point of oversaturation and the NHL has long ago reached it in regards to the Penguins.
That all said, Jan. 1 is going to be one heck of a party.
Our fondest memory of the 2008 game in Buffalo...er... Orchard Park... was the tailgating and the fans. Pork was roasted over barrel fires. Street hockey nets and impromptu games were abundant in the parking lot. So were snowball fights. Someone fed us kielbasa and sauerkraut. (Maybe that's why it stood out to us.) Inside Ralph Wilson Stadium, the fans seemingly stood the entire day. Maybe it was because of some cruddy sight lines, but it was a pretty engaged crowd despite several delays. Lots of dancing, lots of cheering. It was a celebration of the sport.
And the snow. Nothing but snow all day long. Snow. Snow. Snow. And even more snow on our 7 1/2 hour ride back through some nasty lake effect snow.
Now... Western Pennsylvania isn't Western New York. Frankly, Antarctica isn't Western New York. The Buffalo area is pretty much designed for snowfall. The NHL got it right when they scheduled the first Winter Classic there. The game itself was kind of a dud, but the environment was so stunning, no one could look a way.
Pittsburgh has been known to have warm days in early January. It can be 50 degrees and rainy or 10 degrees and sunny. It's a bit of a gamble holding the game.
But its always going to be a gamble holding staging an event outdoors when the playing surface is so dependant on the elements. We're just happy Pittsburgh gets a chance to take that gamble.