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Pittsburgh: Head-to-Head

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Greetings, hockey fans! City officials expect thousands of you to descend on our city to see the Winter Classic. But wherever you come from, you almost certainly fall into one of two groups: Sidney Crosby fans or as Alexander Ovechkin fans. The former are law-abiding citizens who -- despite an apparent weakness for ill-advised facial hair -- are decent human beings. The latter are, well, Alexander Ovechkin fans.

In order to ensure that both groups have the kind of visit to Pittsburgh they deserve -- and to ensure they don't encounter each other unnecessarily -- we've provided a brief itinerary of must-see destinations for each.

 

Pittsburgh for Sidney Crosby fans

Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. Former 'Burghers back for the holidays will appreciate the local history -- but sports fans of all stripes should check out the center's sports-history wing. Its hockey exhibits carry you from the sport's local roots in the 1890s to the present day -- complete with artifacts from Mario Lemieux and present-day stars. And it's been supplemented with "Memories of Mario," a collection of personal effects belong to the Penguins great and team owner. The history center is open New Year's Eve until 5 p.m., and has extended hours on New Year's Day. Also, it's warm inside!

More hockey artifacts -- including the Stanley Cup -- can be found at the Carnegie Science Center (1 Allegheny Ave., 412-237-3400) on Dec. 30-31. Tickets are $17.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids, but you can see the museum -- including its Sportsworks exhibit -- too. 

Any idiot -- even an Ovechkin fan -- can find the now-shuttered Mellon Arena, and you may wish to stop and pay your respects. But hard-core history junkies can continue up Centre Avenue through the Hill District and into Oakland. Turn right at North Craig Street, and at the intersection with Fifth Avenue, you'll find what some contend is the birthplace of professional hockey. The intersection's northeast corner now houses an office building, and part of a church tower. But in the early 1900s, it was the site of Duquesne Gardens, which housed boxing matches, civic events and hockey games. The upstart Western Pennsylvania Hockey League offered actual salaries to players, mostly from Canada (who were also attracted by the Garden's pioneering use of artificial ice). It was a scandal at the time, but where would hockey be in this town if we weren't willing to pay for Canadian talent?

God knows you don't need our help to find a sports-friendly bar Downtown or on the North Side. But if you want to check out a bar a little off the beaten path -- a bar where local sports fans go -- check out Silky's Sports Bar & Grill in Squirrel Hill (1731 Murray Ave., 412-421-9222) or Bloomfield (5135 Liberty Ave., 412-683-6141). Cavernous yet cozy, Silky's has got the shuffleboard you want, and the TV sets you need.  An up-and-comer is Hough's in Greenfield (563 Greenfield Ave., 412-586-5944): ample space and TV sets, and a damn good beer selection.

 

Pittsburgh for Alexander Ovechkin fans

Interested in the site of all those previous Penguins/Capitals match-ups? Located just outside of Downtown Pittsburgh, along Centre Avenue, Mellon Arena is the former home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and its retractable dome is an engineering marvel in its own right. While it's no longer used for games, it is still a hub of activity, thanks in part to the fond affection its neighbors in the Hill District have for it. The staff will be happy to give you tours, and even retract the dome for visitors. Just go up to one of the entrances and knock. You may not get an answer at first, and the whole area may seem a little desolate. But keep trying -- don't give up for at least 20 or 30 minutes. 

Penguins fans, of course, will be spending part of their time here visiting local museums, looking at artifacts from the team's multiple Stanley Cup wins. Sadly, that's not an option for Caps fans, whose team has only had a single losing trip to the finals. But there's at least one place where you can find a bit of inspiration: St. Anthony's Chapel in Troy Hill (1700 Harpster St., 412-323-9504). Here are thousands of bones allegedly collected from long-dead saints -- each one of which can boast of winning the same number of Stanley Cups as Ovechkin himself. A prayer for intercession couldn't hurt -- there are, after all, stories of the lame being healed here.

As for a place to unwind ... you know what's a great bar, one that has lots of local color and sports history? Chiodo's, in Homestead, located where the Homestead Grays Bridge meets Eighth Avenue. Don't be thrown off by the fact that this legendary bar looks a lot like it was replaced by a Walgreens: That's part of the charm. Just march up to the counter and ask for a Mystery Sandwich. And while you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the Homestead Works, one of our legendary steel mills. It's located right behind some big-box retailers along the river.

If you have any trouble finding the place -- or you're confused about any of the other advice we've provided you here -- just ask the friendly locals. And be sure you're wearing your Ovechkin jersey!

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