Public hockey rink to open next to Heinz Field

| Friday, Dec. 3, 2010

Outdoor hockey is coming to the North Shore a week before the National Hockey League's much-anticipated Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

The public rink will open on Christmas Eve in a parking lot adjacent to Heinz Field. It will feature public skates and youth hockey games.

The new rink is part of the Penguins' plan to create a "hockey carnival" atmosphere before their nationally televised outdoor game Jan. 1 against the Washington Capitals. Penguins officials declined to comment.

The NHL will begin constructing a rink Dec. 23 at Heinz Field after the Steelers' final home game of regular-season football.

The public rink will stay up at least through the Classic and possibly for several days afterward if the Steelers do not host a playoff game.

The Winter Classic games in Chicago and Boston featured public skates on outdoor rinks. The hockey games were played at the baseball venues of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, respectively.

The Penguins competed in the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008 in Buffalo.

A "Skate with Santa" on Christmas Eve and a New Year's Eve-themed skate will take place on the public rink.

The youth hockey tournament will be a first for the Winter Classic. Two Pittsburgh Elite bantam teams, including the squad coached by Penguins principal owner Mario Lemieux, will participate, along with the Washington Jr. Capitals and squads from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and Magnitogorsk, Russia: the respective hometowns of Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Cole Harbour and Magnitogorsk will face off on the public rink. Crosby and Malkin said they want to attend if their Penguins schedule permits.

High school and amateur league games also will be played on the public rink.

NHL officials met Wednesday at Heinz Field to review plans. The NHL is in charge of the game, but the Penguins, Steelers, public officials and businesses are developing events leading up to the Winter Classic.

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