AHL Outdoor Classic

I’ve been to a lot of live hockey games in my life: NHL, AHL, OHL, NWHL, CWHL, University etc… but I had never experience an outdoor game before, until this past weekend.

With the AHL Outdoor Classic taking place less than 100 km from my house, in Hamilton, I jumped at the chance to watch future NHL stars duke it out, outdoors, in the middle of January.

This is Canada, eh.

Everything about the entire experience, from purchasing tickets to the final buzzer, was above my expectations.

I purchased my tickets online, where I was able to pick my seats from the section, to the aisle to the exact seat numbers I wanted. (In the end I wound up sitting two rows, in the same seat numbers, in front of fellow Tweeter @thirtyonesaves).

The ticket prices were outstanding, $80 per person, for great seats AND that deal came with tickets to the PepsiCo Outdoor NHL Alumni Game Friday night between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and tickets for the AHL Outdoor Classic Saturday afternoon with the Hamilton Bulldogs hosting the Toronto Marlies at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

In the days leading up to the event I was a bit apprehensive because of the strange weather we’ve been getting around here lately, but it turned out to be the most beautiful weekend possible for outdoor hockey!

A beautiful January night for an outdoor NHL Alumni game

I had never been to an NHL Alumni game before either and wasn’t sure what to except from ex NHLers, especially when some people on Twitter said they’d never waste money on that, but I was actually blown away.

Sure, it was much slower than an NHL game but damn, most of those guys can still outplay me, that’s for sure!

Cujo was absolutely brilliant for the Leafs, some fans even went as far as to say he played better in the outdoor game than he did his last few seasons in the NHL!

During the second half of the NHL Alumni Game, Kraig Nienhuis left the Leafs bench and climbed on stage, in full equipment, to rock the crowd with his rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

He wound up playing the tune again on Saturday for the record-setting crowd of 20, 565 fans at the AHL Outdoor Classic.

Before the game and between periods the ex NHL players signed autographs for fans waiting along the pathway to the dressing rooms.

It was funny how OLD some of those guys look now!

It wouldn't be an outdoor hockey game in Canada in January without a little snow.

The weather forecasters called for snow flurries at 9 p.m. and low and behold they were actually right, as flurries started coming down at 8:56, delighting the snow flake loving kid in me.

What I loved the most about this setting was how friendly the fans were – Habs and Leafs fans alike.

I was surrounded by Leafs fans and they chimed a few cracks at me here and there but they took the comebacks in great stride.

There were even a few people sporting Boston Bruins apparel -puke- that I was joking around with.

Normally the animosity between these fan bases is pretty high in other settings, so it was a welcoming surprise to share some good laughs with them.

Picturesque weather conditions for the first AHL Outdoor Classic in Canada

I couldn’t have asked for more picture-perfect weather for Saturday’s AHL game. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Hamilton came out flying, scoring less than 30 seconds in the game which led to an ensuing fight (which Hamilton won).

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs went on to lose 7-2.

The crowd kept cheering until the end though, not like the boos you would typically hear ringing through the Bell Centre.

If you didn’t have a chance to watch the live feed on Sportsnet, here is the game in six minutes from the NHL Videocenter.

You can find more photos of the game on the Facebook Page for the 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic presented by Molson.

Overall, it was a great experience that I would do over in a heart beat (although, I can’t see myself paying the $200+ ticket price for the NHL Outdoor Classic).

This guy made my night!

At Friday’s game there was a Habs fan sitting in front of us with a Cammalleri jersey on. He had taped over the name bar and wrote “GM is an idiot”.

I wound up posting the picture to Twitter and it was still getting retweets more than 24 hours later.

Amazing!

During the NHL Alumni game, one of the Hamilton announcers interviewed George Laraque at the Montreal bench regarding the coach, Guy Lafleur.

After telling the reporter what a great coach Guy was behind the bench, he threw a little jab at the Quebecois media with a sly grin on his face.

“He’s great…and he can speak French”

The entire stadium roared with laughter and the play-by-play announcers had a field day!

Oh, George…you funny man, you.

Here are a few other photos I took with my iPhone…sorry for the quality.

Canadiens Alumni lining up for the national anthem

Alumni players walking to the dressing room between periods

Rocking my bleu-blanc-rouge touque and Josh Gorges t-shirt before the game

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6 thoughts on “AHL Outdoor Classic

  1. Pingback: Cal’s Weekly Hockey Doctrine – 1/23/12 « First Order Historians

  2. I love the fact that hockey is expanding more and more with outdoor games. The college games, Winter and Heritage Classics really bring some new viewers to the game. I didn’t even know that there was an AHL game this year so I am glad you did a write up. Grew up watching AHL in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI (The Griffins). We are trying to up our coverage of the NHL at my blog (because two of us are huge hockey fans). I am going to shoot a link to your write up, drop by and say hi when you get a chance. http://firstorderhistorians.wordpress.com/
    Enjoyed your write up!

    • Thank you for reading my blog and leaving such a great comment. Yes, this was the first AHL outdoor game in Canada. There was another one done in Philadelphia on Jan 6 where the Adirondack Phantoms faced the Hershey Bears in front of 45, 653 fans.

      I’ll definitely give your blog a read!

      • Any time. It is great to see other people giving some love to hockey. I am a season ticket holder with the Tampa Bay Lightning (because i live in Florida now) and I love talking hockey. I miss being surrounded by tons of knowledgeable hockey fans like I was when I lived up North, so I am always trying to seek out more perspectives and people who genuinely appreciate the game. Had I still been up in Michigan I would have gone to the Ohio State vs. Michigan State game that was held at the Cleveland Indians baseball stadium. I am going to try to make it up for the Wings vs. Leafs Winter Classic next year.

      • Nice, I love Tampa Bay! They are my second favourite team 🙂 I’ve been playing hockey since I was 11 and I absolutely love talking anything hockey. The Wings vs Leafs classic next year would be absolutely amazing, but I’ll have to see where I’m at financially by then since I get married in September.

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