For the second time this season the National Hockey League took the game back to its roots—outdoors—for a pond hockey style Heritage Classic matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
The sell-out crowd of 41,022 had to battle the elements at McMahon Stadium as temperatures dipped to 13 degrees (-9 Celsius). Factoring in the wind chill, it felt more like 1 degree (-17 Celsius).
On the ice, the Calgary Flames were on fire as they defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 4–0.
Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff turned away all 39 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season.
Rene Bourque scored a pair for a career 100 goals. Anton Babchuk (short-handed) and former Canadien Alex Tanguay also found the back of the net for the Flames.
The NHL’s ice guru, Dan Craig, decided not to send out an ice re-surfacing machine between periods. Instead, an expert ice crew cleared the ice with specially designed shovels and a custom-made water-spraying unit.
Because of the frigid temperature, the ice was brittle and the machine could have cracked it.
“The ice wasn’t great, but it’s better than some NHL rinks we play in,” Calgary captain Jerome Iginla told TSN. “It was a little bit bouncy, probably a little bit brittle compared to what we’re used to, but nobody was really complaining about the ice.
The Calgary Flames donned a retro-looking uniform at the Heritage Classic honoring the history of professional hockey in the city. The jerseys were inspired by the Calgary Tigers who helped form the Western Canada Hockey League in 1921.
The Tigers became the first Calgary club to compete for the Stanley Cup, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in 1924.
Along with the Maroon and yellow striped jerseys and socks the Flames wore tan-colored pants with a red stripe.
The Montreal Canadiens chose to go with a classic version of their current road sweater.
Not to be confused with the Winter Classic, which is played annually on New Year’s Day, the Heritage Classic in 2003 was actually the first game to be played outdoors as part of the regular season.
That event took place at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in front of 57,167 fans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Oilers joining the NHL.
In 2008, the league began the Winter Classic which to date has taken place in American NHL cities.
In a postgame press conference NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, was asked about the future of the Heritage Classic. While he couldn’t commit to a possible date or location, he said the outdoor game was profitable.
“We made a big investment in doing it in Calgary and we think it paid off tremendously,” he said. “As our COO John Collins has told a number of you, our sponsor activation and investment in this was higher than any Winter Classic we’ve done.”