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Gorman: A Christmas wish for a Winter Classic at The Igloo

| Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009

All I want for Christmas?

I want my Ralphie Parker "official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time" gift, straight out of "A Christmas Story."

Before you tell me I'll shoot my eye out, at least hear me out.

I'm not asking for the world to open up, just Mellon Arena.

And, get this, not until it's already closed.

Here's my wish, a year in advance: Make the final hockey game at The Igloo an open-air event, Pittsburgh's own version of the Winter Classic. Do it once Consol Energy Center is open but before Mellon Arena meets its maker.

Just imagine a game played with snowflakes falling and a city skyline visible from the ice of an open-air Mellon Arena, just as it was originally designed for the Civic Light Orchestra a half-century ago.

I've got some of the Penguins on board with the idea, including Sidney Crosby, who scored the winning goal in the 2-1 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the first outdoor NHL game in U.S. history on Jan. 1, 2008, before a crowd of 72,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"That would be great," Crosby said. "We had a great experience in the outdoor game in Buffalo. I think people would love that event and support it. That's probably something that everyone has talked about at some point is, what it would be like having a game with the roof off• That's an opportunity to have a pretty cool event right here in Pittsburgh.

"I don't think anybody would argue with that."

Well, maybe Brooks Orpik would.

The Penguins defenseman wasn't enthralled when I mentioned the idea to him Wednesday, rolling his eyes as if being asked to relive the idea of skating on a snow-covered rink and playing outdoors was a form of torture.

"If we had to," Orpik said, he would play. "I played the outdoor game before. I liked it, but that was good enough for me, to be honest. I'm sure the fans would like it, but for us, the ice conditions aren't very good and the game is a lot different. The pace of the game is a lot slower."

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had the opposite reaction. His eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning who finds a pair of white leg pads under the tree. Of course, Fleury was injured and didn't play in the original Winter Classic.

"That would be awesome," Fleury said. "To play outside like that would be cool."

Actually, the idea is to play inside, on the Mellon Arena ice. Just with the roof open, or totally removed, depending on the demolition date.

"I have a thought, 'There's got to be something that can be done with the roof open at some point before it's not a viable option,'" Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It would be befitting to get it open and do something. I know there's some limitations without the scoreboard. ..."

That brings up the logistics involved with an indoor-outdoor game. The scoreboard, like most everything else, hangs from the ceiling. So, for one, the game would have to be played in the daylight. And seating would be at a premium, which would make it a tough ticket.

Let someone else worry about the minutiae.

Supposedly, the last time the stainless-steel retractable roof was open for a hockey game was for the filming of "Sudden Death." Do we really that want a B-movie to be the final hurrah for The Igloo and its signature dome?

"As a player, we've always talked about what it would be like to play with the roof off. Does the roof even still retract• We've always kind of wondered that. We don't really know the answers," Crosby said. "If it did happen, that they were able to take the roof off or at least retract it for a game, it would be pretty neat to be part of that."

Concern around the arena is that once the roof is opened, there's no guarantee it can be closed without significant damage. That's why I'm suggesting we stage this event just before Mellon Arena gets the wrecking ball, as a chance for the Penguins to allow The Igloo to go out in style.

"I think that would be a great way to cap off many memories," said FSN color analyst Bob Errey, who played for the Penguins from 1983-93. "We're excited to get into the new building, but there will be a lot of memories lost when this one is torn down. It would be a neat way to send this one off."

It's certainly worth a try.

And if they say no, I'll settle for a leg lamp.

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