Building a Classic

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 PM ET

As far as Mark DePasquale is concerned, the Calgary Flames will officially be ready for the Heritage Classic as soon as Iggy’s pants arrive.

“Everything is done,” said the Flames head equipment manager, when asked about preparations for Sunday’s outdoor tilt.

“We’re just waiting for the venue … and Jarome’s pants.”

After eight months of planning, ordering and brain-storming, DePasquale has assembled everything he could possibly think of to ensure his players are as prepared, comfortable and warm as possible for whatever might blow over the Rockies and into McMahon Stadium late Sunday afternoon.

Everything except for the captain’s pants, that is.

While most of the Flames will slip off-white shells (with a maroon stripe) over their existing pants as part of their new uniform Sunday, Iginla prefers coloured pants and has an equipment deal mandating which brand he wears. Because no other team wears those colours, it took awhile for them to be made.

“I’ve got a tracking number,” smiled the 40-year-old Chicago native, originally expecting the pants Tuesday.

“They’re supposed to arrive (Wednesday) now.”

A litany of products unique to an open-air contest arrived months earlier, such as tinted visors, handwarmers from Golf Town, football hoodies, eye-black from the Stampeders and toques from Fanatics.

However, the list of things to tote to the city’s northwest gets stranger.

“We’re the home team, so we have to provide the Montreal Canadiens with everything they would normally have — riveters, towel service — you name it,” DePasquale said. “Even for the referees, we have to provide everything — laces, tape, towels and showers. It’s a travelling home game, which makes things interesting.”

That means the sewing machine, skate sharpeners and everything else he or the players might possibly require from his Dome setup will migrate to McMahon via cube trucks starting Thursday.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime, but we’re there to get two points and we’re fighting for our lives, so you want to make sure they have everything,” said DePasquale, who will have people positioned rinkside to take off players’ skate guards after walking to the ice from the dressing rooms.

“You name it, I think we have it covered. But we’ll have to see when we practice Saturday, because it could be way different Sunday, especially the ice surface.”

Outfitting the team in a whole new slew of colours is enough of a headache, requiring DePasquale to order dozens of Harvard Red helmets, affix decals and add visors to the players’ specs. However, given the possibility of blinding sunshine, he’s also got a helmet with a tinted visor on it for every player.

“Everyone laughed at me and said it will be dark, but the game starts at 4 p.m., and the sun was out until 6:15 the other night,” said DePasquale, in his fifth year with the Flames and 20th in the NHL. “Instead of changing 10 visors when the sun comes out, we have 10 additional helmets with tinted visors.”

Larger laundry bags for each player have been made for the occasion (to accommodate long johns and such) as have commemorative nameplates for their stalls in the Stampeders locker-room. Even extra helmets were ordered in case larger ones are needed to accommodate toques, hoodies or bellaclavas.

With a forecasted high of minus-1 and a 40% chance of flurries slated for the game, chances are it’s all overkill. But trainers like DePasquale don’t take chances, which is why the veteran started working the phones in the summer, asking colleagues who’d staffed outdoor games before for tips. He even called pals from the NFL.

The league helps out by supplying a number of things, including bench beverages (hot chocolate excluded) and a skate sharpener by the bench for the teams to share in case of emergency.

“What happens if a skate breaks? You can’t say, ‘Oh well, we’re at McMahon Stadium,’ ” DePasquale said. “This is for two points. We always say we’d rather be looking at it then looking for it.”

Most of the players have already broken in their new gloves for the game and will easily make the shift to the special-edition striped jerseys of which they will wear four different ones game day.

“One for warmup and one for each period,” DePasquale said. “The player gets the jersey from the third period, the league gets one, the players’ association gets one and a company that sells them gets one. It’s big business.

“After the game, everything will go to the (Flames) store, and we’ll put it all on auction either on the website or at the first home game.”

Everything including Iginla’s pants… assuming they arrive, that is.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on The Hotstove

on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada


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