Is it too much to ask that the Winter Classic be about hockey?

I am certain that I’m the only person around for miles who is bothered by the fact that Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris have to join Mario Lemieux and an Army veteran to drop the ceremonial puck at the start of this weekend’s game. We’re hosting the biggest deal the NHL has outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs — it’s a much bigger deal than the league’s all-star game — and we still have to have the Steelers involved? Really?

The Steelers even intruded on tonight’s HBO 24/7 episode. Does anyone really give a shit that James Harrison thinks he can skate?

I don’t have anything against Bettis or Harris — OK, that’s not quite true, but still — and I have no misconceptions about who the big dogs of Pittsburgh sports are; I’ve lived here for 16 football seasons, and believe me, I understand. Bettis and Harris will also do a charity shoot-out thing in between periods — something that will benefit youth hockey programs in Pittsburgh and D.C. — and that’s OK. But to start the game? Don’t we have some hockey legends around who can help out with this instead?

The bigger point: I think this town spends plenty of time revolving around the Stillers. Is is not possible that we could have just one sports event that doesn’t involves Terrible Towels, Steeler jerseys and old NFL players?

Nationally, hockey is kind of treated as a stepchild, relegated to minor cable networks and the back pages of the sports section. But that’s not the case here. The Penguins do the best job of the three franchises in terms of taking care of their fans, and they’re rewarded by an unusually loyal and knowledgeable fan base in return. How good can we be? When the Stillers and the Pens won championships within just a few months of each other a couple years ago, more people showed up for the Penguins’ downtown victory parade than for the Steelers’ event.

Hockey fans here are different. They are better. And they deserve an event, a whole weekend even, when the focus is on their sport and nothing more. And if the Steelers — who should be prepping to thump my Browns on Sunday afternoon — want to be involved, they can watch the game like the rest of the hockey fans in town.


  1. I’m of the belief that a Pittsburgher isn’t a “Steelers” fan or a “Penguins” fan. They are a Pittsburgh fan and root for the black and gold no matter what the playing surface is.

    There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh’s love of sports grew from its passion for the Steelers, and you can’t ignore what the Steelers have done to bring pride to a region.

    I’m not in agreement of your argument regarding the crowds of the victory parades. It’s not a strong argument.

    Besides, the game is being played inside the home of the six-time Super Bowl champions. How can you host a special event game in Heinz Field and ignore what they have done for this region and its people?

    But at the end of the day, I’m a Pittsburgh fan. I’m not fond of arguments that try pitting the Steelers against the Penguins.


    1. I’ll admit that the size of the crowds at the victory parades probably had something to do with the weather for the respective events. But I’m not trying to pit the Pens against the Steelers — I just don’t get why this can’t be about hockey and hockey alone.


  2. Bettis is there because of NBC and Harrisson because they couldn’t get Polamalu, and it’s in an NFL stadium. If the game had been played in PNC Park (which would have been better) then it would have been Bettis and…

    On second thought, maybe it’s not in PNC Park because the Rooneys have to get their hands into everything north of the Ohio River, and because NBC doesn’t have any retired MLB players on staff.

    Anyways, the Winter Classic is a television spectacle, not a hockey sacrament. The network holds the purse strings. Nothing in any proximity to the NFL has anything to do with what thinking fans would appreciate.


  3. Didn’t Franco Harris try, with all of his might, to drive the Penguins out of town by building his casino instead of the one that would fund the arena? Sure, it turned out fine in the end but… um… as a Penguin fan first and Steeler fan only if I really really have to be, I don’t have a warm fuzzy spot for Mr. Immaculate Reception anymore. His being there is an insult to Mario.


  4. Puck drop should be Mario alone. The thing that has been bugging me this week is “bring your terrible towels to the game”. Why? I don’t understand why we would wave a symbol of the Steelers at a Pens game.

    I am personally looking forward to a hockey crowd at Heinz Field this weekend instead of a football one.


  5. Fun factoid for you: NBC started the Winter Classic to compete on New Year’s Day when they lost the rights to the Gator Bowl to ESPN. So… ya… it’s not really about hockey so much as it’s about sticking it to college football. Ironic, huh?


  6. For my 2 cents, I think it’s more entertaining to have these intermission shootouts feature non-hockey players. Using 2 Steelers is just a good fit.

    Look at the bright side (for you): Harrison could turn an ankle or something and have to sit out against your Brownies.


  7. Thank God you brought this up. I’ve been too busy to touch on it once I found out about all the Steelers crap.

    I like the Steelers but a Pens terrible towel? seriously? This is a hockey event and besides a Rooney saying hi and the comments about it being the home of the Steelers the focus should be on hockey.

    Franco can suck it. He was all about getting the casino away from the Pens.

    Unfortunately you cant take a shit in pgh without someone saying how it reminds them of some random play they never saw but someone told them about in the 70’s. It killed me that even during the Cup finals the local news was still focusing on the upcoming training camp for the Steelers.

    Knuckleheads can have their coverage. Pens fans are in a league of their own. 2 completely different style of fan.


  8. UC, I just realized that I can control the snow in the background with the position of my cursor! I can control snow. Does that make me some kind of minor deity? Or, Snowmeisser?

    PS. The pregame stuff is for the fans in the stands. So, give them what they want even if its more cowbell.


  9. Actually, I fully agree with you. It’s like how I like peas and I like mashed potatoes, but for the LOVE OF HOCKEY, don’t try mixing them. They are better off in their own little compartments on my plate.


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