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2011 NHL Winter Classic

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Title: 2011 NHL Winter Classic  
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Subject: 2011 Heritage Classic, 2012 NHL Winter Classic, 2010–11 Pittsburgh Penguins season, 2015 NHL Winter Classic, 2014 NHL Winter Classic
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2011 NHL Winter Classic

2011 NHL Winter Classic
1 2 3 Total
Washington Capitals 0 2 1 3
Pittsburgh Penguins 0 1 0 1
Date January 1, 2011
Arena Heinz Field
City Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Attendance 68,111
← 2010 2012 →

The 2011 NHL Winter Classic (known via corporate sponsorship as the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic) was an outdoor regular-season National Hockey League (NHL) game that was played on January 1, 2011, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The visiting Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3–1. The game, rescheduled from its original 1:00 p.m. ET start time to 8:00 p.m. due to weather concerns,[1][2] was telecast on NBC in the USA, and CBC (English) and RDS (French) in Canada. Pittsburgh native Jackie Evancho performed the Star Spangled Banner and Pittsburgh sports legends Mario Lemieux, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis presided over the ceremonial dropping of the puck, and during the second intermission Harris and Bettis hosted a fan event at the outside rink.[3]

The 2011 Winter Classic was the second time the Penguins participated in an outdoor NHL game; the team previously visited the Buffalo Sabres for the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008.[4] Most notably, the Classic pitted two recent number-one draft picks against each other: Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin (2004) and Penguins center Sidney Crosby (2005); both players entered the league in the same year, 2005, due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout and contributed to a rivalry between the two teams that has been growing since the early 1990s.


At the event, the teams wore vintage uniforms based on Reebok's "Edge" template. The visiting Capitals wore a replica of their inaugural 1974–75 white uniform which they wore through the 1994–95 season.[5] The Penguins wore new uniforms, based on those of their inaugural 1967–68 season; the navy and baby blue colors were reversed, and the jerseys featured a crest of their original skating penguin logo, in place of the diagonal letters.

Delayed start time

The threat of rain pushed the start time from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm ET.

The game had originally been scheduled for 1:00 p.m., but due to concerns about rain, on December 31 the game was shifted to an 8:00 p.m. start.[1] A few weeks prior, the possibility was raised that the Winter Classic might be postponed or canceled altogether. All major weather outlets forecast unseasonably warm temperatures for the day of the game, with the possibility of rain. Heavy or constant rain was the greater concern for the NHL, as it could eventually make the ice surface unplayable. Light rain would have frozen on contact and made the surface uneven, while hard rain could have possibly flooded the rink. Early on the NHL had contingency plans to push the game back to January 2 if necessary, but preferred not to do so since this would have conflicted with telecasts of NFL games. If neither date had reasonable weather, the game would have been postponed and the matchup rescheduled indoors at Consol Energy Center later in the season. New Year's Weekend was the only time the Steelers would have allowed Heinz Field to be available, since they needed time to get it ready for any postseason home game (which could have been as early as January 8).[6]

As New Year's Day approached weather forecasts solidified that by late afternoon the Pittsburgh region would be cooling to the 40s and eventually 30s, and major precipitation would be over by early evening for the duration of the weekend.[7] As it turned out, the few fast-moving bands of light rain in the area had no effect on the surface, and no problems were reported.

Effect on CBC broadcast schedule

For Hockey Night in Canada, the seven hour delay on the broadcast schedule caused the classic to be completely preempted in the province of Ontario. The network's coverage of the NHL that night began with the Battle of Ontario at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa at 7pm ET, and broke away to the Classic outside Ontario. The CBC truncated the broadcast after two hours in Alberta to show the Battle of Alberta at Rexall Place in Edmonton in its entirety.[8]

Ceremonial puck drop.


Canadian singer Steven Page sang "O Canada" and Pittsburgh native Jackie Evancho sang the Star Spangled Banner before Pittsburgh Sports legends Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis and Mario Lemieux joined U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Bradley T. Tinstman for the ceremonial puck drop.

Rule changes

As with the 2008 and 2009 games in Ralph Wilson Stadium and Wrigley Field, the NHL announced a rule change to account for any adverse weather conditions that could give either team an unfair advantage. Due to high winds, the teams changed sides an additional time, at the first whistle after the halfway point of the third period. This was done at exactly the halfway point of the third period in 2008 because of falling snow and again in 2009 due to high winds.

Game summary

Scoring summary
Period Team Goal Assist(s) Time Score
1st No scoring
2nd PIT Evgeni Malkin (14) Kris Letang (27), Marc-Andre Fleury (1) 2:13 1–0 PIT
WSH Mike Knuble (9) (PP) Nicklas Backstrom (26), Mike Green (11) 6:54 1–1 TIE
WSH Eric Fehr (6) Marcus Johansson (4) 14:45 2–1 WSH
3rd WSH Eric Fehr (7) Jason Chimera (7), John Erskine (6) 11:59 3–1 WSH
Number in parenthesis represents the player's total in goals or assists to that point of the season
Penalty summary
Period Team Player Penalty Time PIM
1st PIT Paul Martin Hooking 4:40 2:00
WSH Mike Green Holding 8:21 2:00
WSH John Erskine Fighting 11:52 5:00
PIT Michael Rupp Fighting 11:52 5:00
2nd WSH Brooks Laich Interference 2:59 2:00
PIT Maxime Talbot Holding 5:56 2:00
WSH John Erskine Hooking 15:37 2:00
3rd WSH Mike Knuble Delay of game 7:28 2:00
Period 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Washington 12 16 4 32
Pittsburgh 16 8 9 33
Power play opportunities
Washington 1/2
Pittsburgh 0/4
Three star selections
Team Player Statistics
1st WSH Semyon Varlamov 32 Saves (.970)
2nd WSH Eric Fehr 2 Goals
3rd PIT Evgeni Malkin 1 Goal

Team rosters

Washington Capitals[9]
# Player Position
1 Semyon Varlamov G
4 John Erskine D
8 Alexander Ovechkin (C) LW
16 Eric Fehr RW
19 Nicklas Backstrom (A) C
21 Brooks Laich LW
22 Mike Knuble (A) RW
23 Scott Hannan D
25 Jason Chimera LW
26 Matt Hendricks LW
27 Karl Alzner D
28 Alexander Semin RW
30 Michal Neuvirth G
39 Dave Steckel C
52 Mike Green D
55 Jeff Schultz D
74 John Carlson D
83 Jay Beagle RW
85 Mathieu Perreault C
90 Marcus Johansson C
Head coach: Bruce Boudreau
Pittsburgh Penguins[10]
# Player Position
1 Brent Johnson G
3 Alex Goligoski D
4 Zbynek Michalek D
5 Deryk Engelland D
7 Paul Martin D
9 Pascal Dupuis RW
10 Mark Letestu C
11 Jordan Staal (A) C
14 Chris Kunitz LW
17 Michael Rupp C
24 Matt Cooke RW
25 Maxime Talbot LW
27 Craig Adams RW
29 Marc-Andre Fleury G
44 Brooks Orpik (A) D
45 Arron Asham LW
48 Tyler Kennedy RW
58 Kristopher Letang D
71 Evgeni Malkin (A) LW
87 Sidney Crosby (C) C
Head coach: Dan Bylsma
^ Brent Johnson dressed for the Pittsburgh Penguins as the back-up goalie and did not enter the game.
^ Michal Neuvirth dressed for the Washington Capitals as the back-up goalie and did not enter the game.



Television ratings

The game garnered the highest ratings in Classic history on American television and a 22 percent increase in viewership compared to the previous year, capturing a 2.3 rating and 4.5 million viewers . Overall, the game was the most watched NHL contest in the United States since 1996, and the most watched regular season NHL game since 1975.[11] Its overall ratings boost also helped NBC win the evening as the most watched network for January 1, 2011. These marks were achieved despite the seven-hour postponement of the game, which prevented network promotion of the new ad hoc 8 p.m. start time (and subsequent program listings of Law & Order: Los Angeles-Rerun on DVRs and program guides). Pittsburgh and Washington led the ratings, with Baltimore, which is part of the Capitals' territory, in third. Buffalo, New York was the highest-rated outside market, despite a Buffalo Sabres game playing opposite the Winter Classic.[12]

Legends Game

Capitals alumni celebrate Peter Bondra's tying goal.

The NHL Legends Game was played on December 31 in the morning. The game, which featured notable alumni from both the Penguins and the Capitals, was played in two 20-minute periods and ended in 5–5 tie. Penguins goals were scored by Rob Brown, Rod Buskas, Craig Simpson, Jay Caufield and Ron Francis. Mario Lemieux had two assists. Paul Mulvey of the Capitals had two goals, while Alan May, Mark Lofthouse and Peter Bondra scored one each. Bondra's goal tied the game with 45 seconds remaining. The game didn't have overtime or shootout.[13][14]

Penguins and Capitals alumni squads salute the crowd after the game.

The Penguins alumni wore the 1968–72 styled powder blue jerseys, Pittsburgh's former third jersey that was introduced in the 2008 Winter Classic. The Capitals alumni wore Washington's current home red jerseys.

Several complaints were made by the fans in attendance. Prior to the game starting, there were complaints regarding the sale of the tickets to game, which went on sale at 10:00 a.m. on December 17, 2010 for $25 a piece. Only 10,000 tickets were available for sale by the NHL, while Heinz Field has a capacity of over 68,111 seats for hockey. Many fans who tried to obtain tickets from Ticketmaster at exactly 10:00 a.m., either via the internet or by telephone could not get access to the company. Many of the locked-out fans complained that most of the people who got tickets were ticket scalpers or people trying to sell them online. By 10:14 a.m., the first two tickets showed up for sale on the Pittsburgh craigslist website for $250 a piece. Throughout the day, there were several entries on eBay and craigslist seeking as much as $699.99 for two tickets and $1,380 for a set of four.[15]

The most vocal complaints were reserved for the time it took for many fans to get inside the stadium. Well into the first period of the two-period game, people reportedly still were entering Heinz Field. This was due to the stadium having only one open gate that morning, Gate B. Several fans further stated that not all the turnstiles were being used, a claim disputed by the Steelers, who spoke on behalf of stadium operations. Some confused fans also waited for other gates to open, which never happened.[16]

Some spectators also complained that the game ended in a 5–5 tie with no overtime or shootout. Penguins alumnus Phil Bourque said after the game that "I think everybody's a little disappointed that we didn't get to the shootout, because it would have been great to see Mario. Pittsburgh would have gone with all Hall of Famers, of course, in our shootout group." Penguins alumni coach Eddie Johnston later stated that his shootout plan consisted of having Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey and Bryan Trottier participating in that order.[17]

Legends rosters


HBO aired a four-part documentary chronicling the preparation of the two teams for the game as part of its award-winning sports series 24/7. The first episode aired on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10 p.m. ET,[18] with three additional episodes following each subsequent Wednesday. The series chronicled each team's seasons leading up to the Winter Classic, and emphasized the rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin and between the Penguins and Capitals.

Associated games

The week leading up to the Winter Classic featured a number of hockey-related events. On Thursday, December 30, 2010, the Robert Morris Colonials and the RIT Tigers men's varsity hockey teams met at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh for an Atlantic Hockey league match.[19] The college game was followed that evening by an American Hockey League matchup between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears, the top minor-league affiliates of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, respectively.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b LeBrun, Pierre (December 31, 2010). "Winter Classic time moved to night".  
  2. ^ Rossi, Rob (2010-05-27). "'"Pittsburgh set for a 'winter celebration. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  3. ^ "Winter Classic to Feature Music, Hockey and Football Legends".  
  4. ^ "NHL to announce outdoor games in Pittsburgh, Calgary on Friday". The Sports Network. 2010-05-27. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  5. ^ "Capitals Unveil Uniform for 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic". October 2, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  6. ^ "NHL has backup plan for Winter Classic".  
  7. ^ Novy-Williams, Eben; Rob Gloster (December 31, 2010). "NHL Moves Winter Classic From Day to Night Because of Rain, Warm Weather". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  8. ^ Canadian Press (December 31, 2010). "Winter Classic moved to Saturday night". CBC Sports. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Winter Classic open thread: Capitals at Penguins".  
  10. ^ "Club Playing Roster". 2011-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Winter Classic On NBC Is Top NHL Regular-Season Audience In 36 Years". SportsBusiness Daily. Street & Smith. January 3, 2011. Archived from the original on 4 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  12. ^ Wyshinski, Greg (2011-01-03). (Update) NHL Winter Classic gives NBC key ratings win in prime time. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  13. ^ Roarke, Shawn P. (2010-12-31). "Alumni Game Ends In Tie; Lemieux Gets 2 Points". Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  14. ^ "Final Rosters Set For Pens-Caps Alumni Game". December 30, 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  15. ^ DiPaola, Jerry (2010-12-18). "It's classic instance of supply vs. demand". Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  16. ^ Cohn, Bob (2011-01-01). "Penguins, Capitals alumni game mostly a hit". Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  17. ^ Molinari, Dave (2011-01-01). "Winter Classic: Alumni have fun on new ice despite tie". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  18. ^ Rosen, Dan (September 23, 2010). "NHL, HBO announce 24/7 series featuring Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and NHL Winter Classic". Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  19. ^ a b "Robert Morris, RIT Get Winter Classic Tuneup Spot". August 25, 2010. Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2010. 

External links

  • Official Winter Classic website
  • Penguins Winter Classic website
  • Webcam of rink construction
  • Game boxscore
  • Ted Leonsis open letter to Winter Classic fans
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