When it was announced earlier this year that the Capitals would be playing the Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic, Chris and I were beside ourselves with excitement. We bought our tickets months ago and waited anxiously for game day to arrive. Game day, my friends, did not disappoint. If I could describe it in a word, it would be “extraordinary.”
We headed up to Pittsburgh on New Years Eve to spend some time with Chris’ family friend, Mike and his family. We did a little gambling and a little drinking, but were fairly low-key and got back to the hotel about 5 minutes before midnight to ring in the New Year.
The game was supposed to be played at 1pm on New Years Day, but the weather was not cooperating, and the NHL was smart enough to delay the game by 7 hours on Friday as opposed to making the fans sit in the rain, waiting for it to stop on game day. THANK YOU, NHL! So, instead of a 1pm start, the game began at 8pm.
With a night game upon us, we were given the unusual opportunity of tailgating at Heinz Field before a hockey game! Who does that? We do! We got a great parking spot right downtown and adjacent to the casino, so we had indoor bathrooms, entertainment, tailgating and fun, all right there.
An absolutely candid tailgating photo.
Rockin' the red.......Converse.
The NHL did a really great job by setting up this whole “fan experience” that took up half of the exterior of Heinz Field. Sponsors were giving out free stuff, there were a lot of photo-ops, and just cool stuff to see and do. If you’ve ever been to a Nascar race, it was similar to that type of fan experience. Very cool for a hockey game.
Chris and his dad.
And Pittsburgh wonders why we don't like them....
We made it!
Chris and me on the river in Pittsburgh.
Once we made our way into the stadium, it was pretty much overwhelming. Verizon Center only holds about 18,000 fans, while Heinz Field holds close to 70,000. That’s a lot of people. And the Caps fans showed up! I think when the final numbers came out, there were something like 30,000 Caps fans to 40,000 Penguins fans. That’s a LOT for the visiting team and I’m just really proud that we showed up loud and proud. It’s really difficult to really describe watching the game because talking about it doesn’t do it any justice. You literally had to be there. Hockey outside is so different than in an arena that it’s impossible to put into words. At Verizon Center, it’s impossibly loud. Outdoors, it was eerily quiet. The puck flew across the ice differently and the players tripped, stumbled and fell as the rain slowly melted the outdoor surface. The whole thing was a once in a lifetime experience. Ultimately, the Capitals beat the Penguins 3-1 and even as we left the stadium, Caps fans were still cheering “C-A-P-S, CAPS, CAPS, CAPS. ” The energy in that stadium was electric and being present for the moments we witnessed was certainly a once in a lifetime experience.
Pre-game American Flag.
Richard and Chris before the game.
Our view, right before the puck dropped.
Us at Heinz Field.
Love the Red and Blue Fireworks.