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Monday, October 11, 2010
Road trip! My blogumn hits the rink

By John Buccigross
ESPN.com

Don't worry, this will not turn into a weekly Pittsburgh Penguins blogumn. Juggling a full-time TV job, Pee Wee coaching and enjoying the last blast of beautiful Northeast weather makes a twice-weekly column challenging. Add in a road trip for Heidelberg University's homecoming weekend in Tiffin, Ohio, and the pressure is on. So here was Saturday's schedule:

8 a.m.: Wake up in Tiffin, shower, listen to Bieber, check out.

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Host pregame end zone party before Heidelberg-Muskingum NCAA Division III football game. (Heidelberg won 33-21; three more receiving TDs for 6-foot-5 wide receiver Mike Preston; NFL scouts interested … check the tape, Mel Kiper Jr.!)

4 p.m.: Jump in the car and drive to Pittsburgh in order to fulfill column idea.

7 p.m.: Arrive in Pittsburgh and make it up to the media ring high above the Penguins' new arena in time for the anthem and puck drop. This stop was made to take in the Penguins' game against the Montreal Canadiens, jot down my first impressions of the new arena and fulfill this week's column duties.

10 p.m.: Jump in the car and drive home to Connecticut. Two one-hour rest-area naps and 11 hours later (24 hours after waking up in Ohio), I arrive in Connecticut in time for a 3-hour nap before Jackson's 1:25 p.m. Pee Wee game Sunday. (Jack: three goals, one assist and one roughing penalty in a 6-1 win. All on 10/10/10 for an 11-year-old who was born on 7/8/99. Boo-Yahtzee.)

Saturday was one of the most stunning days in the history of Pennsylvanian Oct. 9ths. If there is a heaven, and it includes earthly weather, this would be the day you would choose for the rest of your days there. Sunny, still warm and with a golden, glowing light. Cornfields and cities look equally peaceful in this hue.

Pittsburgh was also glowing as I parked my tired ride in a downtown parking garage and made my way to the game. I exited right and began the two-block walk with my digital camera. Here is a small sample:

The (old) Civic Arena and (new) Consol Energy Center are adjacent to one another, and the contrast could not be starker.

The one-of-a-kind Civic Arena, vacant and eerie, hanging on for dear life. On Sept. 16, the Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority voted unanimously to demolish The Igloo. It's one thing to die a slow death, it's another to do it after so much life late in your history (back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 and a playoff series win this past spring before bowing out in a Game 7 loss to Montreal). I like the low light in this photo -- a unique piece of architecture fading to black.

Bucci

The new arena is gigantic compared to the old one. I remember the first time I understood the big difference between new and old arenas. I was landing in Philadelphia and looked out the window of the plane and could not believe the size difference between the Flyers' current home and the old Spectrum. The Spectrum looked like a tree house. They can't seem to make these new hockey/basketball arenas architecturally interesting from the outside, so they tend to put a lot of glass on them. Inside, Consol Energy Center is truly a palace. Massive amounts of room for walking, and every nook and cranny looks to be first class. Pittsburgh's Heinz Field gets negative reviews for less than stellar furnishings. This arena is upscale all the way.

Bucci

This was my view high above the ice. This was during the Canadian national anthem. The media area is state of the art, spacious and comfortable. My only complaint was I couldn't see any banners because of how the upper reaches are configured. I like looking at banners. Obviously, I like to be a little closer to the action, but I could see everything from up here. The upper-bowl seats are probably good, but the upper decks are still higher and farther from the ice. I'm not sure why new arenas can't capture that awesome vertical seating like the Boston Garden had.

Bucci

I'm surprised Best Buy didn't step up for naming rights because there are monitors everywhere … 800 of them. A lot of coal will need to be burned to power this place on game nights. I really like my monitor. It looked like a 10-12 foot monitor. Craig Adams looked just lovely.

Bucci

And now, my favorite picture. You can have all the HD televisions you want. You can have the giant suites, the giant HD video screens with the unbelievable slo-mo replays, Fort Pitt Tunnel-wide concourses and rich mahogany smells of a beautiful new home. But stick a bubble hockey game just outside the Penguins' dressing room and the beautiful McMansion on the North Hills is suddenly less palace and more playroom. A reminder this $321 million behemoth houses a kids' game. And you can play the kids' game anywhere.

Bucci

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.