New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood grew up as a young Canadian watching Hockey Night in Canada. He remembers watching NHL star Jarome Iginla fly around the Saddledome ice, only to have his number 12 retired by the Flames just last week.
On Tuesday night, it will be Blackwood on the Saddledome ice, a young Canadian goaltender getting a first taste of playing a game in a Western Canadian arena.
"This is pretty cool," Blackwood said. "I grew up watching teams play in this rink, I remember [Jarome] Iginla and his teams in here. There's a lot of history, it's pretty cool to play in it. It looks small until you kind of peek up and realized there's a section above the edges. It goes up quite a ways."
The Devils continue their six-game road trip with a stop in Calgary, to face the Western-leading Flames in their own barn. For Blackwood, he's already faced Calgary once in his career, just two weeks ago - a February 27th, 2-1 loss - but knows it's a different beast when you're in someone else's arena.
"You're in their rink, with their fans and their city," Blackwood said after morning skate. "We played a good game [last time we met them]. We played solid, we limited their chances. They're a high-octane team so we'll have to do some of the same tonight if we want to be in the same game as them. If we want to have a chance to win tonight, we're going to have to play a solid defensive game and really work for our chances at the other end."
Not everyone is new to the Saddledome, but veteran center Travis Zajac knows it's a little different hockey when you visit a Western Canadian team for the first time.
"It feels just like a hockey rink," Zajac said. "It's the old-school, growing up junior rink. Fans are on top of you, and with how well Calgary is playing right now, it's going to be a good atmosphere. These places in Western Canada, they're great places to play, they're Canadian teams, the fans are loud, and the building is loud. All these teams are, for the most part, in the playoffs or fighting for a spot. It's going to be a playoff-like atmosphere for those games."
The Devils game in Calgary begins a stretch of three Western Canada stops before hitting Colorado. New Jersey will visit Edmonton and Vancouver next, a stretch of games head coach John Hynes points to as a good learning experience for his young squad.
"This is one of the harder trips that you take but they're great hockey cities so it's a great experience," Hynes said. "Everyone is excited for it, but again, it's something that our team has to do a better job of understanding what it's like to play on the road, win on the road and how to manage your own team. It's also about when they get momentum and the opponent has a strong push, it's about the importance of really sticking together and the small things in the game. It's about finding things through our play to get momentum back. Sometimes at home, you can get it from the crowd, but when you're on the road, you get it only from your teammates."
To tune into the game tonight, fans can watch on MSG+ or tune in to the Devils Hockey Network at 9PM.