Classically different

The Calgary Flames pose for a team photo during practice for the NHL's Heritage Classic  against...

The Calgary Flames pose for a team photo during practice for the NHL's Heritage Classic against the Montreal Canadiens in Calgary Saturday. (Al Charest, QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

CALGARY — To truly appreciate Heritage Classic II, you need to understand this French phrase: “Vive la difference!”

Compared to the original, it was, well, different here Saturday.

Like Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

In an attempt to have something different from the signature touque Jose Theodore wore against the Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003, Price unveiled a new mask for today’s game against the Calgary Flames, which is being played at McMahon Stadium.

It’s a freakish sort of design that supposedly incorporates Jacques Plante’s eyes and mouth and Price’s ears.

Definitely different.

When the Flames emerged from the dressing room usually occupied by the football Stampders and took to the ice, it looked like a prison break somewhere in Spain.

They were wearing replica uniforms of the old Calgary Tigers (circa 1920s), with tan pants and horizontal yellow and red striped sweaters.

These should dramatically increase the TV ratings for today’s game, with thousands of viewers phoning friends to tell them to tune in — if only for the uniforms.

As my Twitter followers responded, the “McFlames” kind of looked of like two dozen Ronald McDonalds, Where’s Waldo? on ice or the Hogwarts from Harry Potter.

Don’t look at them as being truly hideous; just ... different.

Same with yesteday’s alumni game.

The entire west side stands at McMahon were closed, as were the temporary stands erected in the end zone.

About 10,000 fans sat in the east side seats in the stadium, which can accommodate 41,000 for today’s game.

It wasn’t a quarter full for the recreation of the ’03 MegaStars game, which drew 58,000 and upstaged the regular season contest between the Canadiens and Oilers, which followed.

But to come here looking for comparisons to the original Heritage Classic would be insane said Kirk Muller.

“It was unique,” said Muller, who joined former Canadiens teammates Russ Courtnall, Craig Ludwig and Benoit Brunet in yesterday’s alumni game.

“It was the first one ever.There was the innocence to all of it. It was a real adventure. We went there not knowing what that was going to be like, because no one had done it before.”

Muller came to Calgary to have the Heritage Classic experience again with no expectations at all of it being a do-over.

“I knew it was going to be different. It’s different ... but it’s still a great experience.”

Courtnall said one thing was definitely better.

“It wasn’t 28 below. It was cold — but not as cold as Edmonton was. I’ll always treasure going out there in Commonwealth Stadium with all those fans going crazy. But we couldn’t expect anything like that today.

“First of all, the two games here aren’t on the same day, so there was no where near as much focus on this game like we had in the first one. You can’t expect people to come to this game, sit out here in these temperatures, and come back the next day.”

The NHL has decided to make damn sure the regular season game won’t ever again be upstaged at these Winter Classics.

Calgary organizers had no chance to make this anywhere near as big as it was in Edmonton, despite having the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames on the ice in the 5-3 alumni loss to the old Habs.

Which was too bad.

Mike Vernon, Theo Fleury, Lanny McDonald, Al MacInnis, Joel Otto, Joe Nieuwendyk, Jim Peplinski, Gary Roberts and the rest of them were on the ice together one last time.

“It was a fun time, regardless,” said Lanny McDonald.

“At our age, it’s great to get together. We call came on the bus (from the Saddledome) together. The crowd was fantastic.

“To have the opportunity to do something like this in this building with so much heritage with the Stampeders and Calgary as a whole ... it’s pretty cool,” he said.

“I played 20 years in the NHL and I won one Stanley Cup,” said Roberts.

“This was a special group of guys and it’s great to be back with them for a couple days.

“To see the support of those fans was awesome. When you are playing, you don’t think of these moments you will get when you are done.

“To come back and hear the fans cheer and to get this group together was a real thrill.”

If you’re coming to McMahon today, Muller has the right idea: vive la difference.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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