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A Classic homecoming for broadcast team

| Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010

The NBC broadcast of the Winter Classic will show a wintry Pittsburgh to a national audience on New Year's Day.

The NHL's national TV partner employs three broadcasters perfectly positioned to elaborate on those scenes -- each man has positioned himself around these parts at previous stops during his career.

"Some of my best years were there," commentator Pierre McGuire said of his stint as a scout and assistant coach with the Penguins in the early 1990s. "There is an unbreakable fabric that Pittsburghers share, and I got to see it for myself. It's a pretty special place."

McGuire was part of two Stanley Cup teams in 1991 and 1992 before moving along in his hockey voyage. His NBC broadcast partners -- Hall of Fame play-by-play man Mike "Doc" Emrick and lead analyst Eddie Olczyk -- have swapped Western Pennsylvania stories since forming the network's lead NHL team four years ago.

Emrick, who taught at Geneva College in the early 1970s, offered an area newspaper free coverage of Penguins home games. That was his start in hockey. He has returned many times since, calling games for the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and various networks.

"He's one of the best ever, just like another guy I consider it a privilege to have worked with," Olczyk said, referring to Hall of Fame Penguins voice Mike Lange.

After retiring as an player in 2000, a career that included two seasons with the Penguins, Olczyk joined Lange on FSN Pittsburgh's broadcasts. He left that gig three years later for a big-time promotion -- head coach, a job he held through one rebuilding season, the 2004-05 NHL lockout and the start of Sidney Crosby's career.

"I wore a (few) hats in this city ... and I take great pride in that," Olczyk said. "To go back for this ... not just for the game but for what it represents, just close your eyes and think about where this team was five years ago. To have this game at a time when people are so jacked up about the Penguins is going to be exciting for me to see.

"It's going to be a celebration for Pittsburgh, and we're all going to feel like part of it."

Mike "Doc" Emrick

Age : 64

Employers : NBC, Versus, MSG Network

Winter Classic duties : He is the lead play-by-play announcer, a role he has held for NBC since 2005.

'Burgh connections : He taught speech and broadcasting courses at Geneva College from 1969-71. He was an unpaid Penguins correspondent for a Beaver County newspaper in the mid-1970s. He is a diehard Pirates fan.

Eddie Olczyk

Age : 44

Employers : NBC, Versus, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago

Winter Classic duties : He is the lead analyst, a role he has held with all three companies since 2006.

'Burgh connections : He played for the Penguins from 1996-98. He worked Penguins broadcasts on FSN Pittsburgh from 2000-03. During that stint, his broadcast partner Mike Lange coined his nickname, Edzo. He served a head coach from 2003-06.

Pierre McGuire

Age : 49

Employers : NBC, TSN, Sports Illustrated

Winter Classic duties : He will serve as a commentator while positioned between the benches, a role he had held for NBC since 2005.

'Burgh connections : He was a scout for Penguins in 1991 and an assistant coach in 1992, winning two Stanley Cup rings before leaving to become an assistant coach with the Hartford Whalers. Penguins general manager Ray Shero is his best friend.

NHL Winter Classic

1 p.m., Jan. 1, Heinz Field

TV/radio : WPXI-TV and NBC affiliates; WXDX-FM, 105.9 (Penguins Radio Network)

Trend : At least one team that has participated in each of the three previous Winter Classics has reached the Stanley Cup Final (Penguins 2008, Red Wings 2009, Flyers 2010).

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