CALGARY, AB -- As news of the Heritage Classic spread across the city, plenty of people were buzzing with excitement over the historic event happening at McMahon Stadium in February.
Head coach Brent Sutter was one of them.
|Ken King, Darryl and Brent Sutter |
"It's history making. It's the first time in Calgary and to be wearing the jerseys on from the first pro hockey team in Calgary ... it's an exciting time," Sutter told CalgaryFlames.com.
"It's great for the city of Calgary, it's great for the Flames organization, it's great for our fans and for everyone that supports the game, which there aren't too many people in Canada that don't because it is our culture. To see it being played outdoors is exciting. I know you can't do it very often, obviously, but to have the opportunity - you relish it, you cherish it."
Like millions of Canadians, Sutter grew up playing hockey in outdoor rinks and has fond memories of this time in his life
"Back then, there wasn't a lot of rinks with artifical ice so you played in the outdoors - skated on the sloughs, the outdoor rinks. Outside of Viking, we didn't have a building that had aritifical ice. We had a closed-in rink but it wasn't artificial ice so we couldn't get going until about the middle of November to start playing.
"Anybody in our league played in outdoor facilities so when you went to go play them, you went there and you shovelled snow off to get the rink ready - you did whatever it took. It wasn't that big of a deal because it was just a way of life and if you wanted to play the game, you did it."
Many of the players on each team have never been involved in a game of this magnitude and Sutter is glad his squad is able to participate in what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the players.
"Every player that plays in this game will cherish the moment and relish in it," he smiled. "It's something that they will have that when they're done their careers, they'll look back and say 'Geez, I had an opportunity to participate in Calgary at McMahon Stadium, a great building.'
"I think for the players it is outstanding."
A few members of the assembled of media questioned whether the timing was something to be worried about given how close the standings were last February. Some asked about whether his players would place too much importance on this game and be preoccupied during the games leading up to the Heritage Classic. Sutter brushed off these worries, saying there was no point in worrying about things the team can not control.
"You deal with it. You don't worry about it. It's a game to exciting to participate in and it's a game that when you get to that point, points are big, but you can't dwell on that and worry about that and say 'Gee, I wish we could play this game at a different time.' It is what it is and you deal with it. Let's face reality - it's new here and it's exciting. Let's enjoy it."
Trying to peg down what weather may be like in Calgary is always a question mark no matter what the season and while Sutter acknowledged the uncertainty of Mother Nature, he does have an optimal temperature range.
"About +10 or +5 would be perfect. You don't want it too warm and you don't want it too cold so that's best for everyone involved. But whatever it is, it is what it is. You can't worry about it. It's going to be great."
Author: Torie Peterson