SUN Hockey Pool

Habs, Flames at home in elements

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

CALGARY - First, Scott Gomez discarded his balaclava.

Then, as part of the outdoor fun, he discarded several of his Montreal Canadiens’ teammates.

“I’m kind of proud of myself,” said the beaming U.S.-born forward minutes after finishing his club’s afternoon practice at McMahon Stadium. “I said I wouldn’t go out there and wear the hood and mask and all that, and I stuck with it. I look at some of my Canadian friends out there, and they were some of the ones wrapped up the most.

“Ryan White is from Brandon — he should be embarrassed of himself,” Gomez continued. “Travis Moen? All his farmer stories — I don’t even know what to believe anymore. He was as wrapped up as anyone.”

So did the fact he was one of the only ones to brave -15C temperatures without a face-mask of sorts make him the toughest little Alaskan out there?

“You bet I’m a lot tougher than anyone,” Gomez said with a laugh. “And I’m Latin and Mexican, too — the cold is supposed to go against me. It’s Alaskan pride, and I’m definitely probably the toughest guy out there.”

Some might argue otherwise but not Saturday when the mood was light as the Heritage Classic drew closer.

Almost every player tested out eye-black, wore some sort of facial protection and shoved hot shots in their gloves. Heck, Calgary Flames backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson even sported shades underneath his goalie mask as he stared straight into a sun that will disappear behind the stadium just as the puck drops at 4 p.m. Sunday.

And while they used the hour-long practices to get acclimatized as quickly as possible, they also seized the moment to continue the child-like playfulness that goes hand-in-hand with grassroots pond hockey.

“We had chicken soup on the bench today,” said Habs sniper Mike Cammalleri, who is cognizant of the event’s title sponsor. “That’s mom’s old recipe. Or, I should say, Tim Horton’s old recipe today.”

Crediting the equipment staff for outfitting him in the best of insulated underwear, Cammalleri marvelled at how rugged he looked sporting eye-black for the first time in his life.

“I think it looks pretty cool,” Cammalleri said with a smile.

“I was going to wash it off after practice, but thought I’d go to the interview looking pretty tough.”

No one turned more heads than Robyn Regehr, who exchanged a helmet for a Saskatchewan Roughriders deer hunting hat.

“That’s great if you’re ice-fishing, but not when you’re playing hockey,” said Brendan Morrison, the first of many to chirp Regehr’s cap.

“Not taking any heat yet — actually received a few compliments from people,” said Regehr, a Sasktachewan native who then revealed there’s a method to his silliness. “(Stamps QB) Henry (Burris) took a shot at me on Off The Record, and it’s taken me a couple years to get back at him. I thought it would be a great opportunity while we’re in their locker-room — in their stadium — to leave a little something in his locker.

“I’m not doing this for the people of Saskatchewan. This is a solo mission. I’m going rogue now.”

It’s important to note the Habs skated just before noon and were the first ones on the ice. They had no concerns with it. However, by the time the Flames finished their afternoon skate and gave way to the alumni game, the ice was peppered with sizable gouges that have some concerned about Sunday’s game.

But ice guru Dan Craig said with the game-time temperature pegged at-9C and no plans for daytime skaters beforehand, he wasn’t concerned the surface would be playable by puck-drop.

“We haven’t been very good on the road, but this is our first outdoor road game, so we’re 0-0,” said Gomez of the importance today’s two points represents. “If we win, hopefully we can go to Vancouver and ask to play them outside, too.”


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