Penguins prepare for warm weather at Heinz Field
Sweat beads formed on the foreheads of Arthur Moats, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust, and it was warm enough that several members of the media were wiping their brows, too.
Those lucky enough to have brought sunglasses to Heinz Field on Wednesday were spared the shielding of their eyes from the stinging reflection of bright sun off the shiny insulation that covered the temporary rink constructed over the grass.
Temperatures nudged their way toward 70 degrees. Other than the hockey stick Steelers linebacker Moats did his best to awkwardly handle for the photo opportunity, nothing about the scene suggested hockey.
But — barring an extreme unforeseen circumstance between now and then — the long-planned hockey game between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will go on as scheduled Saturday night at the venue.
“Seventy and sunny is a little awkward in February in a lot of places,” said Rust, a second-year winger for the Penguins. “But you've just got to take what the weather gives you and just make the most of it.
“Staying hydrated, that's something that we're always worried about. It doesn't really matter where the game is.”
Rust and another young Penguins forward, Sheary, playfully handled footballs Wednesday (Rust instinctively formed a Heisman Trophy pose), while the 246-pound Moats mimed his best stickhandling. It was an unusual feeling for each — despite the NHLers acknowledging how big of NFL fans they and their teammates are and Moats likewise extolling the virtues of watching hockey.
Sheary, a Massachusetts native, said he never played organized football. Michigan-born Rust played only during fifth through eighth grades. Moats claimed to have ice-skated just “one-and-a-half” times in his life, but he was a regular at Penguins playoff games last spring.
“It was just electric,” Moats said of the in-arena atmosphere. “It actually felt a little better being on the sideline and just cheering and not having the pressure on me.”
Coincidentally, Sheary (upper-body injury) and Rust (lower-body) have about as much chance of playing in the Stadium Series game Saturday as Moats does. Sheary termed his rehab as “day-by-day,” noting he hasn't been cleared to practice with teammates. Rust is even further away from a return to full health.
“We'll focus on (coming back to playing) when it comes,” Sheary said as he looked up at the thousands of yellow seats on Heinz Field's west end. “Right now, today, I'm trying to take all this in and get to experience it as much as I can.”