By Matt Popchock
Last season the PIHL held its own Winter Classic leading up to the NHL event at Heinz Field that, thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins, will now become a permanent fixture in western Pennsylvania's high school hockey schedule.
The team has announced the Penguins Pond at South Side Works, an outdoor public ice rink currently being built at the intersection of 26th and Sidney Streets, will officially open Fri., Nov. 18 and stay open through Sun., Jan. 8, 2012.
In December 2010 a similar temporary facility was built next to Stage AE on the North Shore where the first PIHL Winter Classic, a series of four regular season games featuring Bishop Canevin, West Allegheny, Fox Chapel, Canon-McMillan, Bethel Park, State College, Allderdice, and Carrick, was staged.
According to PIHL Commissioner Ed Sam, the second Winter Classic will be held at the new Penguins Pond, with dates, times, and teams to be announced later this season.
This is not to be confused with the PIHL Outdoor Charity Series, another series of four outdoor regular season games, which is entering its fifth year. That event, which will feature Westmont Hilltop, Quaker Valley, Mount Lebanon, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, North Hills, Moon, North Allegheny, and Seneca Valley, gets underway at South Park Ice Rink Fri., Jan. 6, 2012.
Having said that, though I have received no further information on the 2011-12 PIHL Winter Classic, I'm willing to bet the league will stage those games during the final week of December, following Christmas Day, and on either Sun., Jan. 1 or Mon., Jan. 2, if history is any guide. Last year's Winter Classic games were regular season games originally slated just before the start of the league-wide holiday break that were rescheduled around those dates.
Currently the league-wide holiday break is scheduled for Fri., Dec. 23 through New Year's Day. If, for some reason, the league chooses not to reschedule the selected games, but to simply change the venue, those are the dates around which it would have to work.
Furthermore, note the teams we already know to be involved in the 2012 Outdoor Charity Series--mostly northern area schools, with the exception of Mount Lebanon. Again, this is pure speculation on my part, but that leads me to believe most of the Winter Classic participants will end up being similarly high-profile South Hills programs, such as Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, and/or Bishop Canevin.
In any event, keep visiting the "Mr. High School Sports" blog for more on both outdoor hockey events as the 2011-12 PIHL season continues.
Click here to learn more about the Penguins Pond at South Side Works.
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