NEW YORK -- The Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™, one of the cornerstones of the NHL's big event strategy, continued the League's business momentum while driving substantial growth and fan engagement on North American television, via digital platforms such as NHL.com, through social media platforms like Twitter, at retail outlets and at a sold-out McMahon Stadium in Calgary. The NHL Heritage Classic also set an NHL event record for both total sponsorship revenue and activation, surpassing the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®.
CALGARY -- A passing glance at the final score of the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic would indicate a lopsided game. But without a strong effort from Carey Price, especially in the first period, the Montreal Canadiens' 4-0 loss to the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium could have been a lot worse.
Price faced 19 shots in the opening 20 minutes and allowed only one goal, a redirection by Rene Bourque during a 5-on-3 power play for the Flames. His early heroics provided the Canadiens with a chance to turn the game around, and they peppered Miikka Kiprusoff with shots early in the second period but couldn't solve him.
CALGARY --Rene Bourque didn't waste any time at all heating up in the chill of McMahon Stadium at the 2011 Tim Horton's NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday.
Bourque scored two goals to lead the Calgary Flames to a 4-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens, and he could have --probably should have -- had one or two more goals. Bourque had six shots on goal in the first period alone and a total of 11 in the game.
CALGARY -- When Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty drew an interference penalty on Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester midway through the second period, a prime opportunity presented itself for Montreal to change the momentum in the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
Despite getting outshot 19-8 in the first period, the Canadiens gave up just one goal, and they came out buzzing in the second. By the time Bouwmeester went to the box at the 10:59 mark, Montreal had put 15 shots on Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in the second period.
A power-play score to answer the 5-on-3 goal Rene Bourque tallied in the first and the visitors might have been on their way to taking control of the game.
Instead, the Canadiens surrendered a couple prime scoring opportunities to Curtis Glencross. He was denied twice by Carey Price, but after the second stop Glencross regained control of the puck and fed Anton Babchuk, who was cutting in from the point. Babchuk, better known as a power-play specialist, ripped a shorthanded goal past Price at 12:44 to double the Flames' lead.
Kiprusoff faced just eight shots in the opening 20 minutes the 2011 Tim Horton's Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium, but then turned aside all 21 shots the Canadiens unloaded at him in the second period on the way to a 4-0 Calgary win.
All told, Kiprusoff made 39 saves on the way to his fourth shutout of the season, No. 38 of his career and the first recorded in the six games the NHL has staged outdoors.
CALGARY -- Thousands of fans poured into Spectator Plaza at McMahon Stadium on Sunday to take part in fun games, good music and delicious food in preparation for the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic between the Flames and Montreal Canadiens.
The Northeast parking lot had a festival atmosphere as mostly Flames fans -- and even a few Canadiens fans -- partied it up before going inside for the 4 p.m. MT game.
CALGARY -- More than an hour before the puck dropped between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens at the 2011 Tim Horton's Heritage Classic, Kelby Devers was sitting in his seat in the chilling cold with a big smile on his face.
Draped in a Carey Price jersey, Devers sat perched in row 37 taking the atmosphere in as the crowd filed into the stadium after making a 12-hour drive from the relatively balmy climes of Vancouver.
"Because it's a great rivalry and the Canadiens are the best," shrugged Devers, asked what prompted him to pack up his truck and make the trek through the mountains to Calgary.
CALGARY -- McMahon Stadium is a world away -- both literally and figuratively -- for Thompson Square, the country act that will sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
The duo hails from Nashville, more than 1,500 miles from Calgary. And playing before 40,000-plus rabid hockey fans in an outdoor game never even entered the big-time dreams of the husband-and-wife duo.
"We were both bartending this time last year," Shawna Thompson said.
"We've come quite a long way," added her husband, Keifer.
CALGARY -- Fans throughout Calgary, the province of Alberta and beyond have anticipated the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic since it was announced many months ago.
Now the wait is over.
With fans flocking to McMahon Stadium over the past few days to fill Spectator Plaza, take in the Alumni game between members of the Flames and Canadiens championship teams from the 1980s, and now for Sunday's battle between Calgary and Montreal (6 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS), it's been a festive atmosphere leading up to the first puck drop.
But, with all due respect to the sport's pond-hockey heritage, this game is serious business for both teams -- the most important game of the six NHL outdoor Classics. Both teams badly need the two points that are up for grabs Sunday. Playoff spots await and you don't have look any farther than last season's regular season standings to see whether two points can make a difference. The Canadiens finished in the No. 8 spot last season, one point ahead of the New York Rangers and just one slip away from a long offseason rather than a magical run that eliminated both the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, both in thrilling seven-game series.
CALGARY -- If Bob Gainey, once called the best player in the world by Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov and a five-time Stanley Cup winner as a player with the Montreal Canadiens, still wanted the spotlight he could certainly command it.
But, aside from stepping behind the bench to coach the alumni of the Canadiens against the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium on Saturday, Gainey is content in the background as special advisor to Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier.
"I don't see that now," Gainey said, asked he foresees returning to a role as a coach or manager. "No, I'm content in what I'm doing.
I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.
— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas