Heritage Classic Preview

Published on February 18th, 2011

The NHL’s 2nd scheduled outdoor game of the season, the 2011 Tim Horton’s NHL Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, is this Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary at 6 PM EST.  It is a rematch of the 1986 and 1989 Stanley Cup Finals where the Canadiens won in ‘86 and the Flames in ‘89. 

Each team has had some success this year but both are at a juncture like many of the teams in the NHL where each game is crucial to them making the post-season.

Mike Cammalleri

The Montreal Canadiens are currently in 6th place in the Eastern Conference.  Their record is 31-21-7   which gives them 69 points.  They have struggled as of late going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games.  Center Tomas Plekanec leads the offense with 19 goals and 27 points.  Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Scott Gomez are their other top forwards.  Their blue-line has been decimated by injuries.  Both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are out for the season.  The team made a trade for James Wisniewski to address this and he has made a large impact since being acquired on December 28th.  Other top defensemen include P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik.  Their real strength this season has lain in net.  Carey Price has been posting Vezina number with a 2.39 GAA and .920 save percentage.  He has been the team’s MVP so far this season looking to finally realize the promise the team saw in him when they drafted him with the 5th pick in 2005.

The Calgary Flames are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference.  Their record is 30-22-8 which gives them 68 points.  They have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL going 10-1-2 in their last 13 games.  Captain Jarome Iginla is, as usual, the engine that drives the offense.  He has notched 25 goals and 31 assists so far in 2010-11.  Alex Tanguay, Oli Jokinen, and Brendan Morrison are the Flames’ other top forwards.  The Flames’ defense once one of the best in the league has seen better days.  Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, and Mark Giordano lead this group.  Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who typically plays more than 70 games per season, is again on that pace and it may be too much.  The Flames will go as far as he takes them and this season he has been more vulnerable.  Lately he seems to be the goalie he was last season.  He will need to be for the team to make the playoffs.

Jarome Iginla

Cammalleri and Wisniewski both have prior experience in an outdoor game.  Cammalleri played in the Cold War at Spartans Stadium where he and his University of Michigan teammates took on the Michigan State Spartans in 2001.  Wisniewski was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks when they hosted the Detroit Red Wings at the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day in 2009. 

They participated in a conference call with the NHL prior to the game.  Some excerpts:

Q. Mike, you mentioned playing in the one in East Lansing, and as you know, they had another outdoor game in Ann Arbor this year, and now we’ve got the Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic. Do you think there’s a risk, with all these outdoor games, both at the college level and other levels of hockey, of kind of the novelty and the excitement wearing off?

MIKE CAMMALLERI: I haven’t felt that. I haven’t sensed that. I mean, I think initially I wondered how it was going to go as far as with the fans as far as if they were going to enjoy the viewing experience, depending on how far away you’re sitting or all those types of things, the puck size with relation to football and all that kind of stuff. But it seems to be something everybody’s enjoying.

I mean, especially an American fan base that’s used to seeing sporting events in baseball and football that are so much bigger, I think they really relate to the whole party around the game, the tailgate experience, and NHL’s done a good job with that. And then in Canada…I think it hits the emotional cords as far as the outdoors and everybody playing on a pond growing up and breathing in the cold air.

So right now I feel like it’s a pretty hot thing, and I don’t see it fading just yet. I mean, I don’t think it would be great if we played three of them a year, that’s for sure.

Q. James, can you just compare the buzz of the Winter Classic versus the Heritage Classic.

JAMES WISNIEWSKI: The one that we played in Chicago at Wrigley Field, when I was with Chicago against Detroit, was also a big game because that was the first year that Chicago was in the playoff mix in the last eight years. You know, obviously, a divisional rivalry, an original six rivalry.

But I think playing the Heritage Classic and hockey being such a national sport and everybody’s going to be watching that game, it’s going to be quite interesting at 4:00 that everybody in all of Canada and a lot of people in the United States will probably be watching that game as well.

Q. The last game in ’03 in Edmonton was minus 37 celsius with the windchill. Have you guys been speaking to the others about being prepared to be layered underneath in case things are cold the day of the game?

CAMMALLERI: We’ve been fitted for all the football type under gear type thing. So our staff’s prepared for anything that comes. But we’re hoping that it’s not minus 37, that’s for sure.

Q. Hi. This question is for both of you. When it comes to playing in an outdoor game like this, are your game day preparations any different? NHL players are creatures of habit. And also, do you stop and take in the atmosphere of the whole event, or is this just another game where you’re fighting for two points?

WISNIEWSKI: It’s actually something you look forward to. Being a 4:00 (MST) game, you’re not going to have a pregame skate. So that takes a little different approach. Also being a nonconference game, the two points are going to be huge, especially because it’s going to be middle of the end of February. The points are becoming harder and harder to get. But, you know, at the same time, you’ve got to look at it that we’re coming down to a playoff stretch. Every point matters. It’s probably going to be a playoff game out there. You’re going to look forward to becoming an instant classic in Canada.

CAMMALLERI: I don’t think you fight the fact that it’s different and exciting. I think you prepare for the game in a serious ready to play fashion as far as taking care of yourself mentally and physically. I think it could actually hurt your focus if you try and pretend that what’s going on is not going on. You embrace it and enjoy it and take in what’s going on around you. When the puck drops, you go hard.

Architectural Rendering Of McMahon Stadium | Source: NHL

Comments

  1. Posted by admin on February 18th, 2011, 14:57

    Brilliant! Now this is how hockey is meant to be played!