Knuble says officials need to "work a miracle" on Winter Classic ice

Jan 1, 2011

With players and coaches and media members and fans trying to kill a rainy and dreary Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, there was plenty of time for media members to ask coaches and players about weather and ice and routine. Mostly, players said the switch to a night start will make their routine a lot more familiar and manageable, making the Winter Classic feel even more like just a regular regular-season game. And mostly, they said everything would work out with the ice.

Some, though, admitted that they had serious concerns after skating on the Heinz Field ice on Friday afternoon.

"Honestly, yeah," Mike Knuble said, when asked if he had safety concerns during Friday's practice. "I mean, there were holes. A lot. Not just one or two. And potential for a lot more, if you get 10 guys skating, playing at a pace of an NHL game. Yesterday, I don't know. I don't know about yesterday. I think they're all smart enough. I mean, I know there's a lot of money involved in this thing, and I know everybody's got a lot of time spent, energy, dollars spent, but they're not gonna risk our players. The GMs wouldn't do that. So we'll see. They've got to work a miracle, and I'm sure they will."

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The NHL is removing thousands of gallons of water from the playing surface, which sounds terrifying. But moving the start to night will, at least, take the sun out of the equation as a problem, and Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau suggested that was a major plus.

"If it was sunny as it was yesterday when we practiced at that time, that sun was coming up, that ice was melting faster than Frosty the Snowman," the coach said on Saturday. "The sun was so bright in that one spot, you couldn't freeze the ice."

While a good number of fans here are constantly refreshing meteorological sites on their handhelds while watching bad college football games, Pens Coach Dan Bylsma said the team's coaches are "not checking the weather forecast." And plenty of players said that once they started skating, they couldn't afford to worry about the ice.

"I think that the league's smart enough to know that they're gonna do whatever they can to protect us and make sure that the ice is at its best," Matt Cooke said. "And whether that means playing at 8 o'clock or waiting or whatever, whatever it means. The league's doing the right thing by not putting us out there at risk."

"Honestly, I don't think about that stuff, at all," Pittsburgh winger Craig Adams added. "I know other guys do maybe a little bit, but it doesn't really cross my mind until after the fact, until after you have three guys out with groin injuries. Having said that, the ice crew I'm sure will get the ice in great shape."

"I mean, everybody's in the same boat so you can't be worrying about it and everybody else is passing you by," Knuble said. "As you get in the game, you'll really concentrate on what you're trying to do. So that'll go out the window. You probably have to simplify your game as a player. It may negate some skill out there, especially if it's really rough and bumpy and passes will be mishandled. [But] we'll all be in the same boat. They're in the same boat. They'll mishandle as many as we will."

(Knuble also had the best quote I heard on this day, on a completely unrelated subject. Someone asked him to compare the Penguins' new digs to the old, musty Igloo. "Nice building, good locker rooms," he said. "You don't feel like you're being poisoned by asbestos all the time and picking up funk off the floor and getting warts off the floor." Those are good things.)



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