Winter Classic Notebook: Early Lemieux Sighting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Jim Iovino
    Mario Lemieux preps his son's team for their next drill.

    Greetings from a cold and windy Pittsburgh!

    Your humble reporter stopped by Heinz Field Monday afternoon to pick up a Winter Classic press pass and to get a first look at what's in store for the Capitals when they venture here for the outdoor game on New Year's Day against the Penguins.

    But before we get to that -- a Mario Lemieux sighting.

    A youth team was practicing Monday on the other outdoor rink, located in the Heinz Field parking lot. And if you looked close enough, you'd be sure to recognize the man running the drills and blowing the whistle. Yep, it was No. 66 leading the practice.

    Why, you might ask?  Well, Super Mario coaches the team.  His son, Austin, is No. 96 on the squad.  That's right -- no number 66 to honor his dad.  That's a lofty number to live up to, you know?

    The elder Lemieux will be lacing up the skates Friday morning to play in the Caps-Pens alumni game.

    While Lemieux was coaching on the community rink Monday, more preparations were under way at the main venue. A Capitals banner was being placed on the back of the Heinz Field scoreboard.

    The ice is down on the field and was scheduled to be painted white at some point on Monday. Next comes a fresh layer of water on top of that, with logos and lines to be painted perhaps on Tuesday if all goes as planned.

    If you want to check out the latest on what the rink looks like, check out this video from NHL.com:

    So far the weather has been perfect for an outdoor hockey game – but that might change by Saturday. Everyone in Pittsburgh is worried about the current forecast for New Year’s Day, which looks to include a high in the mid-40s and a chance of rain, according to weather.com.

    That’s not good for hockey, obviously. While it’s still early in the week, that forecast is making many people nervous about getting the game in at 1 p.m. More to come on different scenarios if Saturday does turn out to be a rainy day.

    Oh, and one more thing: If you're headed to Pittsburgh for the game this week, make sure you stop by the souvenir stand beside the community rink. The poor guy selling his goods is doing it out of a trailer that has barely enough power to light the lights inside and not enough to run a heater. In other words, the guy is freezing his puck off. So do a good deed and buy something from him to at least keep his blood flowing.