February 21, 2011
'It was a perfect day' for Classic
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Ten years from now, it's unlikely those who attended Sunday's Heritage Classic will remember the score.
They probably won't remember Rene Bourque as the game's star, Miikka Kiprusoff pitching the shutout or the fact the teams were separated by more than a field goal.
Given how important the two points were, it's possible many will remember the win.
However, details of the game itself will undoubtedly fade faster than the Montreal Canadiens have of late.
What will endure will vary as much from fan to fan as the ice conditions did from day to day.
But by most accounts, it was a perfect day.
For some, the goosebumps appeared as they entered McMahon Stadium and saw the league spared no expense as it transformed a non-descript football facility into a winter wonderland.
For others, the pageantry of the player introductions will burn as bright as the flames spewing from standards placed alongside the runway toward the ice.
Then there were the mounted police, the servicemen and servicewomen, flag-bearers and fans who all stood in unison to hear local icon Paul Brandt belt out the national anthem.
When it seemed the snapshot couldn’t get any more Canadian, the Snowbirds punctuated the scene with a dramatic flyby.
Not only did organizers light two cauldrons at the south end of the stadium, the Calgary Tower followed suit with a fiery salute to the celebration of hockey taking part in the city’s northwest.
Forgoing the technology of a Zamboni so the lads could flood the ice with a hose each intermission had to have resonated with many, including the hundreds of hearty souls around town who do similar work in the tiny outdoor rinks peppering Calgary communities. (Bless them all for giving kids the start some use to chase dreams.)
No one will forget the throwback jerseys and striped socks worn by the Flames as a tribute to the Calgary Tigers of the 1920s. That can’t be debated.
For me, the Timbits players zipping around on the tiny auxiliary rink surrounded by hay bales were the highlight, as was the standing ovation for the snowbirds late in the evening.
Seeing Kiprusoff bolt for the heated bench every TV timeout was as unique as seeing hockey players wearing eye black, balaclavas or earmuffs.
The ice crew patching the odd spot or shovelling the rink three times a period took us all back to a simpler day when the only thing better than an afternoon on the rink was having your feet warmed by your parents afterwards.
It was loud, it was lively. The home team came through, as did the fans.
As 41,022 can personally attest, what started in Edmonton seven years earlier beautifully translated into yet another unique celebration of the game this city embraced ... and deserved.
That said, doing it again here anytime soon likely wouldn’t wash. This was a one-off. But that doesn’t mean the league shouldn’t proceed with its tentative plan to ultimately stage a game like this in every city it plays.
Make no mistake, while those who took part in the exercise can speak to the event’s grandeur and spectacle, it certainly didn’t grip the city like a Cup run.
But for those who bundled up and took part in the historic afternoon, it’s something they’ll never forget. Temperatures between -8C and -20C made sure of that.
“We took a good look around and the fans stayed right to the end,” said Flames defenceman Steve Staios.
“Hockey means so much, and when you reflect on it, you feel so privileged to play in this league and be part of something like this.”
Team president Ken King added, “A romantic, storybook ending to a perfect day.”
A perfect showcase for our city, our province, our country and our national pastime.
The world’s greatest game played naturally in the world’s greatest country.
Oh, and for the record, the home team won 4-0.
In case anyone plans on remembering the score.