CALGARY, AB -- On Saturday afternoon, the Calgary Flames hit the ice at McMahon Stadium
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for the first time and the reaction to their new home base was exceptionally positive.
"Conditions were good," said winger David Moss. "The ice was fast. There were a few spots that were chippy but I think overall, they were pretty good."
Defenceman Mark Giordano was pleased with how similar the ice surface was compared to that of the Scotiabank Saddledome, saying he didn't think it would affect the team's play.
"It was fine. Passing and receiving passes, I found it fine. There were a couple of spots that chipped out but other than that, it wasn't anything to complain about. It was great."
With temperatures dipping to -20 C on Saturday, many players were nervous about skating in such a cold setting but those worries washed away as soon as they started doing drills. The crisp, fast-paced practice ensured no one stayed cold for more than a short period of time thanks to the constant movement.
"It was awesome. It was a lot of fun," centerman Brendan Morrison stated. "Guys were a little leery at first with the temperature but to be honest with, it didn't feel cold expect for the hands, the fingertips were a little numb. Everything else was fine."
Moss nodded in agreement with Morrison's assessment of the elements but expressed some concern for the coaching staff.
"The weather was surprisingly good. It was pretty warm once you got moving. Maybe it was a bit different for people standing around though. Might have gotten a little chilly for them."
Flames head coach Brent Sutter admitted it was a little brisk when he first stepped on to the rink but thanks to the generosity of veteran blueliner Robyn Regehr, the bench boss warmed up pretty quickly.
Sutter was sporting some heavy-duty mittens, complete with fur lining during the Flames skate.
"They're Robyn's. He gave them to me to wear in practice," he told the assembled media. "He got them from some banquet he did up on some reserve up in northern Alberta a couple years ago. He said 'Why don't you wear these?' so I said okay."
Did they do the trick?
"Very warm, very nice," was his grinning response.
With worries about cold temperatures disappating after a few laps around the ice, the players began to focus on what they would need to adjust to. The biggest issue came in the form of lighting. The natural sunlight poses the biggest concern for both teams on Sunday afternoon.
"It was much different than being inside," said Morrison. "We've got tinted visors on as opposed to clear ones. It helps with the glare of the sun."
Most of the Flames tested eye black as another way to combat the glare. Those who did try it out said it did aid their vision.
"It's the first time I've used it but one of the guys didn't have it on for the first part of practice and put it on after and said it made a difference," said Steve Staios.
The practice was also used as a way to fully acclimatize the team to their new surroundings before being thrown into yet another important game that could have a major impact on gaining a playoff position.
Every player was able to absorb the atmosphere and Sutter believes that will ensure they're fully prepared to play on Sunday.
"Number one you want your players to experience this in a very positive way and enjoy it and take away all the great things from, but on game day, it's game day. The guys know it. They're professional athletes and they understand the circumstances and how important the game is. I don't think that will be an issue at all."
Giordano also acknowledged that while the setting may be different, it was just another game for the team and they couldn't view at as more than that.
"I think that's what we're trying to focus on: it's a very important game for our team, especially if you look at the standings. It's not a bad thing to get caught up in the atmosphere, it's kind of cool and all that, but as the game wears on and we settle in, we know we have to try and come away with the two points."