Many people thought this would happen, and today, it will become a reality: the 2011 Winter Classic is officially coming to Pittsburgh, with the opponent being the Washington Capitals. The matchup will be formally announced by Gary Bettman at a press conference today in Chicago.
Critics will point to the Penguins' presence in the game in 2008 as overexposure; but network suits and league officials surely realize that a contest featuring their top three stars in chilly conditions on New Year's Day could be a ratings bonanza and an overwhelming financial success. It's simply too good a proposition to pass up, critics or not.
From another angle, this is a huge boom for the city of Pittsburgh, which again gets a three-hour commercial in front of a national audience, as well as the numerous benefits to area hotels, bars, and restaurants that will be significantly busier than usual.
The Winter Classic, which has been played in Edmonton (2003, as The Heritage Classic), Buffalo (2008), Chicago (2009) and Boston (2010) will add a second game this year, with Montreal traveling to Calgary sometime in February for a meeting at McMahon Stadium. So the complaints of Pittsburgh getting a second invitation to the Classic will likely be dulled a bit with the inclusion of a separate game for Canada.
The announcement is a bit of great news for the city, the team, and Penguin fans in the wake of a disappointing end to their 2009-10 season. On top of everything else, I'm guessing it will become one of the hottest tickets in the history of Pittsburgh sports, so even the "freelance ticket brokers" will be celebrating even more than usual on New Year's Day.
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