The Heritage Classic is just over three weeks away. Everyone involved is starting to get excited as February 20th, 2011 draws near, especially the players.
Henrik Karlsson, Adam Pardy, Mikael Backlund and Curtis Glencross were able to sneak in some practice time on an outdoor pond in the southeast Calgary neighbourhood of Cranston recently at the annual Enmax Pond Hockey event.
The four players, as well as Harvey the Hound, took part in a 40-minute game of shinny with two local Atom co-ed hockey teams.
Karlsson was able to get out of his crease and back to the roots of hockey. For him, it was just how he remembered growing up playing hockey outdoors.
“It was exactly like this actually,” said Karlsson. “I played outdoors until I was 13 or something like that. This is really fun.
“I remember when I was a little kid and got to see the big guys playing so it’s pretty fun for them I think.”
Karlsson too, seemed to be having a ball out there grinning ear to ear as he showed off some of his offensive talent.
“Ya, it was really fun. I scored a couple of goals so it was really fun. I think I was the best player actually. I was the number one star!” he teasingly boasted.
Backlund too, was enjoying himself out there with the kids. His competitiveness showed as everyone watched him stick-handle his way past four defenders and score on the 9-year-old between the pipes.
“It’s a lot of fun especially with all these kids to just to go out and play with them,” said Backlund. “We play a lot of hockey but this doesn’t feel like we’re out there practicing. It’s more about relaxing and it’s just for fun.”
Backlund said that he never had the chance to actually play with his hockey heroes growing up. However; sometimes players would come and coach his team’s practices and sign some autographs.
“I know how it felt for me at that time so I’m pretty sure how the kids are feeling right now.”
“It’s really great to see these kids smiling and to have so many people come out for this event,” said Pardy. “It feels good to come out and be involved in the community like this.”
Nine-year-old Liam Downey plays for the Simons Valley Stingrays. His favourite Flames players are Jarome Iginla and Pardy. Downey was just one of the lucky Atom hockey players who had the chance to play on an outdoor rink with his hockey heroes.
“I was really amazed when we actually got to play with them,” said Downey. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was very cool. I liked it when Backlund did the long ice pass to Zak on our team and he shot it and it went in. That was my favourite part of the game.”
The young defenceman is getting pumped up for the upcoming Heritage Classic game that his “Flames teammates” will be partaking in.
“I’m really excited,” said Downey. “I wish I could go to it but the tickets are too much so I can’t go, but it will be a good game.”
This year’s Enmax Pond Hockey event was surely a little more special this year than any other year as the Heritage Classic gets closer. Each of the players are more than excited for that game and the shinny game was just a glimpse of what to come.
“It’s going to be a really great experience,” said Karlsson. “I’m looking forward to it. We have a lot of important games before that so can’t think too much about it yet but it’s going to be fun.”
Backlund, although very excited, seems to be intimidated by Calgary’s cold weather.
“Ya it’s going to be a lot of fun, hopefully not too cold though,” smiled Backlund. “This temperature is pretty good but if it’s like really cold, it won’t be as fun especially if the game is -30, that would be terrible. I hope it’s not going to be too cold.”
There will be close to 45,000 fans in attendance at the Heritage Class game. The “C” of Red will be 10 times as radiant regardless of the temperature.
“Ya, that will be a lot of fun. That’s double the amount as usual so it’ll be fun.” said Backlund.
Author: Kristi Hennessy /calgaryflames.com