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SWEET SETUP

Despite efforts to keep a lid on the 'secret,' David Rittich unveils new Heritage Classic pads

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

David Rittich was nimbly deflecting away any and all pad probing with the élan of pushing aside a 2-on-1 wide-angle poison dart or a heat-seeking one-timer from the high slot.

"Top secret," he shushed conspiratorially, resisting the temptation to put an index finger to pursed lips in silent warning.

"You have to wait, for that game, that day."

Pressed, he also wouldn't bite about a special mask perhaps also being in the works to celebrate the unique occasion.

"Don't worry. You're going to see everything. Next week."

Then, reminded that TV media videoing the practice already had his 'secret' pads on tape, Rittich shook his head with mock annoyance.

"Okay," he teased, playfully, enjoying (as always) sending the media up, "then I'm gonna break your camera."

The first glimpse of Big Save Dave's Heritage Classic pillows were on semi-public display during the Flames' practice Wednesday at lunch-time, as Rittich began to break them in for the Oct. 26 outdoor tilt versus the Winnipeg Jets at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

There was a definite, say, Gerry Cheevers feel to them. Scrolling back further, Glenn Hall or Terry Sawchuk. King of fluffy. Brown as Ovaltine.

"I think it's fun," confessed Flames' goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet of the throwback gear.

"Everyone's done different things for outdoor games and as long as they're not a distraction and you're focusing on the game, enjoy it."

 

Video: PHI@CGY: Rittich stops van Riemsdyk three times

 

Sigalet indicated the rows of yearly team photos dating back to the inaugural '80-81 season on the hallway wall leading into the dressing room: "Ritter was going through these old pictures, looking at the old-school pads with the toes cut out where the skate shows.

"He was joking about those because he'd end up with a broken foot probably.

"Even at their age, getting new gear for a goalie is like Christmas. There'll be a lot of energy around that game which makes it only more special.

"I used to use those old DNR pads. You'd get them from your minor-hockey association and then give 'em back at the end of the season.

"They'd get so wet they'd be water-logged. When the association would stop using them you'd take them for road hockey and by then they'd have holes in 'em. You could see this fluff, like big balls of lint."

"It's scary how light pads are today compared to what they used to be. The Bauers Cam (Talbot) wears, for instance, don't seem to weigh anything.

"So looking at those old pads brings back memories for me because I remember wearing the originals."

Skipper Mark Giordano, too, seems to be a bit of a throwback traditionalist when it comes to equipment.

"Love 'em,'' admitted the reigning Norris Trophy winner when asked about Rittich's new gear. "When I was really, really young and watching the Leafs, Alan Bester was the goalie. And I'm pretty sure he had the brown pads on.

"Every kid loves the goalie, right? Every kid wants to be the goalie.

"When Smitty would try the different colour schemes, home and away, I thought that was really neat.

"So for Ritter to be going retro, I think it's great."

When he's on top of his game, of course, Rittich gives the impression he could save 35 shots with a couple pieces of plywood duct-taped to his pins.

Most recently, for example, through a not-overly busy, 21-stop 3-1 silencing of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Not that newcomer Talbot won't receive his share of innings over the next 75 starts, but Rittich has carried the load so far, starting six of the Flames' seven fixtures.

 

Video: CGY@VGK: Rittich slides across to rob Marchessault

 

"The best thing he's done this year is that he hasn't treated it any differently than last year or the year before,'' said Sigalet. "The scenario may have changed but his mindset hasn't, at all.

"He's always been ready for every game.

"Seeing him bounce back (Tuesday) after the game in Vegas (a 6-2 loss) was good to see. There were a couple goals he probably wanted back but there probably a couple that he played no part in, too.

"As a team we just weren't very sharp.

"For him afterwards to put a night like that behind him, come out and do what he did yesterday, that's a good step. Because sometimes that stuff weighs on you and you sit on it too long.

"But he bounced back right away."

Clearly enjoying the added responsibility.

"His preparation's been great," lauded Giordano. "He's been dialled in, right from camp. You watch Ritter's pre-game rituals and he's always super-focused.

"For him to be The Guy, playing so many games, well, he takes it seriously.

"You can tell that any time he gets to play, he's excited and ready."

Given the unusual dynamics of Oct. 26 on the Saskatchewan flatlands, you get the feeling that date has been circled on the Rittich family-home calendar for a while.

And many details about whatever surprises he has in store sartorially, well …

Stay patient.

All will be revealed in due course.

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