Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Like the 'Super Bowl' Dynamic of Stadium Series Game Lights'city Up All Week,' Draws Crowd to North Shore

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Like the 'Super Bowl' Dynamic of Stadium Series Game Lights'city Up All Week,' Draws Crowd to North Shore

Article excerpt

As Penguins president/CEO David Morehouse left Heinz Field Friday evening and headed to his office at PPG Paints Arena, the 30-minute drive was about three times longer than usual, his arrival delayed by fan gatherings all around the North Shore.

Morehouse wasn't upset. He was ecstatic. The crowds were the result of a busy couple of days that "lit this city up all week," and Morehouse knew the atmosphere was nothing like what you'd find Uptown the night before a Penguins game this time of year.

"There are people everywhere," Morehouse said as he drove. "It feels like the Super Bowl."

And that's the dynamic those below Morehouse on the organizational depth chart will try to walk on game day: There has been such a push to make this a week to remember, to involve the community and grow the game of hockey, that it's almost an afterthought the Penguins are playing perhaps their most bitter rival for two points they desperately need.

A festival-like atmosphere might cause some coaches to plunge their heads in the sand, but not Mike Sullivan. He spoke after a brief practice Friday about embracing the moment, enjoying what these things are supposed to be, then, at the appropriate time, dialing in.

"I want them to be on both sides," Sullivan said. "I want us to embrace the experience. I think that's what [Friday] was all about. It's a great opportunity for all of us to practice outside, to spend some time with our families on the ice. It's a terrific experience to be part of these outdoor games.

"They're great opportunities for our guys. I think we should embrace that. Having said that, [Saturday] is about a game day. We have to make sure that we maintain the necessary focus and the right mindset so that we're ready to play."

An NHL hockey game against an NHL hockey team that the Penguins really don't like.

Or have much success against at home, at least not lately. The Flyers won 11 of their first 13 games at PPG Paints Arena until the Penguins went 2-0 at home against them in 2015-16.

"That rivalry has been around for a long time," Sidney Crosby said. "Playoff matchups will elevate the emotion and intensity of certain games. Overall, that's a rivalry that's always going to be there."

It's also not a typical game in the sense that Crosby will play at Heinz Field for the first time since having his career derailed because of a hit in the 2011 Winter Classic.One Chris Kunitz and Crosby's other closest friends didn't expect to have its effects linger as long as they did.

"As years or months went by, you didn't really know the implication of one hit that was something that caught a guy on the side of the chin," Kunitz said.

Now, Crosby, at the height of the hockey world once again, can't escape that story line. He'll step onto an elevated ice deck surrounded by yellow seats with 33 goals and again challenging for the NHL scoring lead. …

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