YOU MIGHT HAVE seen where the Sabres and Penguins are playing at a football

stadium on New Year's Day as part of an NHL

initative. And you probably read that the Flyers wouldn't mind playing guinea pig for the NHL and strapping up the skates before 100,000-plus folks in State College in '09. Faceoff at the JoePand, so to speak.

The folks up at Happy Valley read it, too. And that's all they know. "It's certainly an interesting concept," sports information director Jeff Nelson said on Wednesday. "But to my knowledge no one at the university has been contacted about it."

That includes Joe Paterno, who protects his field with the same vigor he protects his starting quarterbacks from criticism. One observer of Nittany Lions football

noted that the coach seems plenty content to put just a few scrimmages and home games on his turf, that "when it rains bad, he won't even let the bands on the field at halftime."

It is, at this point, no more than informal

conversation. But if it's going to go any further, said Nelson, the league might want to look at a date earlier than Jan. 1. "It's probably not the

ideal day to do that," Nelson said. "First of all,

our students wouldn't be here. And at the end of the season, we basically shut the stadium down, like we turn off the water and all those things.

"If somebody wanted to approach us with that idea, something like the end of the football season would really be the only possibility, like late

November or early December. The stadium would still be up and running [at that point]."

Christmas goes into overtime

Fans who attend games at the Wachovia complex Dec. 26 to 28 are being encouraged to bring along their unwanted holiday gifts and exchange them for a coupon book that offers a variety

of ticket discounts and vouchers. Items will be

collected at the entrances. *

- Paul Vigna

Panel Christmas suggestions at go.philly.com/gifts

Join the panel? Send e-mail to vignap@phillynews.com