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Posted On Sunday, 02.20.2011 / 6:31 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Pre-game festivities

The 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic is just about ready to start after a spectacular pre-game ceremony.
 
Both Thompson Square and Paul Brandt handled the anthems flawlessy. Brandt, a Calgary boy, belted out O Canada while wearing a Flames Heritage Classic jersey.
 
The highlight, though, might have been a fly-over by the Canadian Snow Birds.
 
Now, it is time to play. The game-time temperature is minus-11 Celsius, but feels like minus-20 because of a strong wind that will blow at the Flames back in the first period. Montreal will have the wind advantage in the second period and the teams will switch sides midway through the third period to even out the advantage.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:42 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

A memorable night at McMahon

Calgary could not deliver a win for the 10,000 hometown fans that came to McMahon Stadium to see history repeat itself.

Instead, the Montreal Canadiens wore the black hats -- toques, perhaps -- by taking a 5-3 decision on a bitterly cold afternoon turning into evening in Calgary.

Montreal goalie Eric Fichaud, the youngest player in the game, made several key saves to deny some Flame attacks and "youngsters" Mike Keane, Russ Courtnall and Kirk Muller keyed the Montreal offense against Calgary goalie Mike Vernon, playing for the first time since his retirement in 2002.

Despite the scoreline, the Heritage Classic Alumni Game was a success for all involved.

The fans were treated to quite the show as many of the players that battled for the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1989 went at it yet again.

They were also treated to a number of memorable moments.

Terry Crisp, the coach of the 1989 Calgary team that won the Cup in Montreal -- the only team other than Montreal to claim the Cup at the Forum in the history of hockey -- was once again behind the bench. The iconic Lanny McDonald -- still sporting his trademark mustache -- was once again sporing his No. 9 jersey and flying up and down a Calgary ice surface.

Bob Gainey, who has been in the shadows since stepping down as the Montreal GM last season, made a triumphant return as The Montreal alumni coach, joined by Ryan Walter and Rejean Houle.

The crowd also saw two successful penalty shots in less than a minute, one by McDonald and the other by Montreal's Kevin Haller.

Plus, they saw some of the biggest stars in the game happily grab shovels and clean the ice during the stoppage between the two 20-minute halves -- a chore to anyone that has ever played shinny that speaks to the very essence of the outdoor game.

But, most of all, the 10,000-strong crowd watched some of the most famous names in the game smile their way through a 90-minute trip down memory lane, essentially serving up the perfect appetizer for Sunday's Heritage Classic.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:37 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Emotions running high

Jim Peplinski just started jabbing at Eric Fichaud's pads after the Montreal goalie made a save.

Rick Green, though, came over and playfully pushed him away and the two joked around, mimicking that they might drop the gloves in a battle. But of course cooler heads prevailed and the two smiled as they skated away.

While the mock shoving match was playful, there is no doubt that Calgary has turned up the intensity.

But that intensity went for naught when Kirk Muller scored against the run of play during a 2-on-1 to make the score 5-3.





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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:27 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

One-goal game again

Calgary refuses to say die.

It's now 4-3 as Gary Roberts scores on a typical power-forward move, driving to the net hard to be in position for Joe Nieuwendyk to feed him with a perfect pass to make it 4-3.

Roberts has a few advantages on his peers in this game. First, he is a fitness freak and he trains several current NHLers, so his cardio level is off the charts for this game. Plus, this is Roberts' second outdoor game in less than two months.

Roberts played for the Pittsburgh alum the day before the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter classic at Heinz Field. The Penguins, unfortunately, dropped that game to the Washington alumni.



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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:21 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Adding to the drama

Calgary has cut the deficit to 3-2 early in the second half when Lanny McDonald was awarded a penalty shot by referee Mick McGeough.

McDonald took the puck at center ice and drove in on Eric Fichaud. As he reached the circles, he settled a bouncing puck and snapped a shot five-hole to cut the deficit to just one.

McDonald's goal was well-received as he is one of the most popular players in Calgary history.

But McGeough showed he wasn't playing favorites when he gave Kevin Haller a penalty shot for Montreal just a minute later. Haller scored with a wrist shot, despite the fact that somebody on the Calgary bench threw a stick at him as he crossed the blue line.

Haller's goal made it 4-2 for the visiting Canadiens.
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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:15 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Time to shovel

Halftime was not rest time for the players.

Eschewing a Zamboni run because of the heavy use the rink endured today -- two full practices and two family skates -- Dan Craig opted to clean the ice with shovels.

Of course, the players did the heavy lifting, grabbing shovels and skating up and down the ice, pushing the snow into huge piles to be cleaned off by the ice workers.

It was a scene eerily reminiscent of the alumni game at the first Heritage Classic in 2003 when the alumni from Edmonton and Montreal shoveled the snow at halftime. Legends like Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur joined the effort and all the players were given a standing ovation by a packed house at Commonwealth Stadium that braved -22 F temperatures to see Gretzky play in his first game since his retirement four years earlier.




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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:07 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Welcome to halftime

The first of two 20-minute halves has come to an end and the visiting Canadiens are snowing on Calgary's parade, holding a 3-1 lead.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first part of the period, Calgary turned the effort up a notch and got at least one goal before the break to make things interesting.

Calgary goalie Mike Vernon also got better as the period went along. In fact, he made a great last-minute save against Mike Lalor.

That gives the Flames hope heading into the second half. Certainly they will have a lively crowd cheering for the comeback as the 10,000 fans that have piled into McMahon have been both vocal and supportive.




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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 7:01 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Party crashers

Montreal seems intent on ruining this Calgary feel-good party.

Craig Levie just tallied a goal to make it 3-0 on an assist from current Montreal assistant coach Kirk Muller. Brent Gilchrist and Mike Keane had the first two first goals for Montreal.

While some of the Montreal players are having a good time, Brian Skrudland is being killed by his former teammates. Keane playfully called Skrudland the worst roommate he ever had in 23 years of professional hockey and also said Skrudland is the reason his hair has turned gray. Russ Courtnall, meanwhile, said Skrudland did not shut up this afternoon before the game.

Skrudland said he couldn't care less. "I'm just happy to be alive these days," he said, kidding.

And with that, Calgary gets on the board. Montreal goalie Eric Fichaud couldn't handle a slap shot from Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk showed he stIll has world-class hands by claiming the rebound and putting it in shortside before Fichaud could respond.

Then, Calgary had another goal waved off because the puck was played with a high stick.








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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 6:57 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Montreal leads 2-0

Terry Crisp is talking about the 1989 team in Calgary and is raving about their leadership.

"It was awesome. As a coach, it made your job so much easier," Crisp said.

He talked about Timmy Hunter, who is now a coach for Toronto, taking the team to task as a perfect example.

As soon as he finished, Montreal took a 2-0 lead as Brent Gilchrist scored a goal.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 6:51 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Breaking the Ice

Russ Courtnall is talking about the game on CBC and says it is a bit cold out and that even the short shifts the alums are taking is tough on the lungs.

The game is visually appealing as most of the players are wearing old-fashioned togues perched atop their heads.

It has taken quite a long time to break the ice in this game. We're seven minutes in and there has been no scoring. Mike Vernon of the Flames and Eric Fichaud of Montreal have just been asked to make one tough save each. 

Oops, spoke too quickly as Mike Keane makes me eat my words, scoring from the slot at the 7:30 mark of the game. Keane, who battled injury to play in this game, was camped in the slot and  fired a shot past Vernon, who was already sprawled at the side of the cage to make an initial stop on a Montreal flurry.

1-0 Montreal



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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 6:42 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

We're underway

We're under way here at McMahon.

Calgary started with a powerhouse front line, running out Gary Roberts, Lanny McDonald and Joe Nieuwendyk.

But it was Mike Vernon, in goal, who created the first signature moment of the game. Less than a minute into the game -- his first since he retired -- he made a smart save and helped turn the puck the other way.

Also interesting is that Joel Otto, one of the best two-way centers of his generation, is playing defense in this game.

Also, Martin Gelinas, a former Flame, is playing for Montreal, which has a short bench for this game.





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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 6:34 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Great memories

Calgary forward Theo Fleury has been enjoying the trip down memory lane this weekend in Calgary.

He arrived in Calgary a few days ago after finishing an old-timers tour of Canada. He has been posting twitter messages about his adventures and the reunions with teammates from that 80s powerhouse.

The 1989 team might be the best that this city has ever seen.

Six players on that team, which beat Montreal in six games in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final, produced at least one 50-goal season. Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Haakan Loob, Lanny McDonald, Fleury and Joe Mullen. That team also had Doug Gilmour, who only managed a career-best 42 goals, and topped the 100-point plateau for the first of three times in his career.




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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 6:19 PM

By Shawn P. Roarke -  NHL.com Senior Managing Editor /NHL.com - Heritage Classic alumni live game blog

Excitement building

Faceoff for the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic Alumni Game is less than 10 minutes away here at McMahon Stadium.

Excitement has been building throughout the afternoon as the alums from the Calgary Flames prepare to rekindle their late 1980s rivalry with alum from the Montreal Canadiens. The teams met in the Stanley Cup Final twice in the span of four years. Montreal won the first match in 1986, but Calgary gained revenge in 1989, claiming the Stanley Cup at the Montreal Forum to add insult to injury for the proud Flames.

The two alumni rosters are loaded.

Three Hall opf Famers are involved: Lanny McDonald and Al MacInnis are playing for the Flames, and Bob Gainey is coaching for Montreal.

But that is just the beginning of the talent that has been assembled. Mike Vernon, playing goal for the first time since his retirement, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts and Theo Fleury are playing for Calgary.

Montreal's Guy Carbonneau is joined by Russ Courtnall (Montreal), Jyrki Lumme (Montreal) and Sergio Momesso (Montreal) on board.

It is a perfect late afternoon for hockey as well. Temps are hovering around minus-15 as the sun starts to fall to the horizon and warming a rather large crowd of fans gathered in the east side of the stadium.









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Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness