A nefarious plot seems to have hatched by Pittsburgh fans to besmirch one of our fair city's most famous symbols.

The outrageous objective: Put a Penguins jersey on the Rocky statue!

Apparently, bad blood is a-brewing between Pennsylvania's two biggest cities - all because they meet each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs, starting Friday night.

This morning on WIP (610 AM), host Angelo Cataldi was on the case, appealing for a thug lookalike - a big guy with "menacing facial hair" - to "guard" the statue from 8 a.m. through noon, when a major assault was allegedly scheduled.

"Who's going to post the bail money?" one interested caller inquired, hoping to get the job.

Violence was discouraged, he was told. "You gotta look so scary they wouldn't try it," Cataldi said.

Problem is: The attack may have already happened overnight - just as a similar outrage was apparently committed by Montreal Canadien fans during the previous hockey series. (See link to picture in list at right.)

The evidence: On the pavement in front of the bronze Italian Stallion lay a black No. 87 Sidney Crosby jersey around 9:30 this morning. The sleeves appeared to have been cut off, perhaps to facilitate draping it over Rocky.

[Update, Friday, May 9:  A Pittsburgh hockey blog has posted a picture taken at night of what appears to be the exact same Crosby jersey! Click this link to see it: http://pittsburghhockeynet.blogspot.com.]

The jersey was removed from the statue as in the eaerly morning hours, either by a security guard or a stone mason who decided to stop by, according to Mike Prince, the 23-year-old Penn State grad Cataldi tapped to be Rocky's bodyguard.

"Those rags haven't seen the light of day!" Princen was heard telling the radio station around 7 a.m.

Uh, that doesn't mean some perp didn't already snap a picture, as requested by the scalawags who initiated the plot via craigslist.com.

A message posted there on Monday night reads:

Need to recruit someone who is a Pittsburgh native, living in Philly. I want you to put a Penguins jersey on the Rocky statue and take pictures. I am going to send it in to the Post-Gazette and other media outlets to show some pride. If you are interested please reply to this ad ASAP.

A message sent by the Inquirer to the listed e-mail address was not returned this morning.

Prince, wearing an "Orange Crush" Flyers T-shirt and a red Phillies cap, sounded determined to prevent any - further? - Penguin shots on goal.

"It would be a sacrilege to Philadelphia, because Rocky is our hero!" he said, tapping together two three-foot weenie-shaped inflatables he called "thundersticks."

His other motivation: For doing this, WIP promised him two tickets to Tuesday's Flyers game.

Prince, 5-11 with a couple of days' stubble, didn't look as menacing as the taller armed police officer who stopped by, demanding to know why three cases of Vitamin Water were resting on Rocky's pedestal.

A WIP sponsor left them, before being chased away by another official, Prince explained.

The cop let the orange bottles stay.

The vigil wasn't exactly drawing a crowd.

At 10 a.m., the only other fans joining in were Dave Waco, 22, who did landscaping until a recent injury, and Bill of North Philadelphia, who did look a bit intimidating in his black "Death Before Dismount" T-shirt.

Soon, Bill was setting up a game of chess.

See, Pittsburgh fans! Better think twice before trying shenanigans in Philadelphia!

"If anyone tries, I'll try to stop them," Prince said.

Midafternoon, he said that he stayed until 1 p.m., and other than friendly remarks from some fans and one police officer, his sentry duty was uneventful.

Every hour he called WIP to basically report that no pranksters messed with Rocky.

To see the craigslist post, go to http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/act/668475418.html.

A message sent by the Inquirer to the listed e-mail address this morning had not elicited a response as of 2 p.m.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.