PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With the NHL under a tight schedule before the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, local military men and women were lending a helping hand today to finish some of the preparations.
It’s a race against the clock to get not only the ice rink inside Heinz Field ready, but the rest of the stadium as well.
So, the NHL enlisted the help of 175 local reservists and military personnel from the 911th Airlift Wing and the 171st Air Refueling Wing.
“We’re putting down seat cushions for all the visitors,” said Lt. Col. Gary Hutsler, of the 171st Air Refueling Wing. “So, when they come in there, the 68,000 plus fans are going to have a seat cushion with a little trinket inside of it. So they can enjoy the Classic and have something to remember it by.”
The logistics of getting those 68,000 seat cushions stuffed and on all the seats is quite the challenge in three days. But the soldiers are used to working hard as a team.
“Today we worked in the suites. We put them on all the chairs and bar stools,” said Sarah Weisel, of the 402nd Quartermaster Battalion in New Castle. “[It has] just been really fun.”
“It feels great to task up with the 171st and other volunteers,” said Travis Hendell, of the 911th Airlift Wing. “It puts a smile on your face to see everyone, all these people out here, actually volunteering. Volunteering is the best thing you can do.”
So, what trinkets can fans expect in those souvenir cushions?
“It’ll be a surprise,” said Lt. Col. Hutsler. “But I tell you… it will be something nice that folks will have that they can remember the Winter Classic from.
For the soldiers, they already have a souvenir to remember the game by.
“Not many people are going to be able to say, ‘Hey, I worked on the Winter Classic.’ I know a lot of people who have tickets and are [going to] go to the Winter Classic, but they didn’t get to help out and that’s something special,” added Weisel.
Officials with the 911th say another incentive for the volunteers’ hard work on the Winter Classic was that they were able to bring their families into the stadium as well.