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Canucks' Weber has Heritage Classic experience

by Adam Kimelman

VANCOUVER -- Growing up in Switzerland, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Yannick Weber skated on all sorts of different ice surfaces, from lakes and ponds to outdoor rinks.

He'll add another unique ice pad to his resume Sunday when he skates onto the ice at BC Place in Vancouver for the 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) between the Canucks and Ottawa Senators.

However, it won't be the first time Weber has played in a Heritage Classic. Three years ago, Weber was a member of the Montreal Canadiens when his team played the Calgary Flames in the 2011 Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. He's the only member of the Canucks or the Senators who played in that game.

Weber said he still remembers the cold from that 2011 day in frigid Calgary, where wind chills pushed the temperature below zero Fahrenheit during the game. But even that doesn't ruin his memories, not just from the game but the entire experience outside.


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"It was pretty cold … but it was a hell of an experience," Weber told "They did a great job in Calgary. The rink was nice, the whole surroundings was very nice. I think they had a good party in Calgary. It was a really good experience. It was fun playing outside. Even the cold, you forget that after a while. We lost 3-0; it wasn't our best game. But it was a great experience."

Part of that experience was the walk onto the field the day of the game in front of more than 40,000 fans.

"It was a bit surreal," Weber said. "Since it was in a football stadium everything is a bit further away; [the fans were] kind of in the background. In Calgary it was a huge wall of red and yellow. It was quite impressive. Once the game goes on you realize it's different, the fans aren't as close. Sitting on the bench, just looking around, you see how many people actually are here. I think they were even colder than us. … It was great. It was a great show before the game and after the game. It was quite the show for everybody. It was quite impressive to look around and see how many people are actually here."

Weber was a minus-1, but had two shots on goal, two hits and one blocked shot in 17:51 that day against the Flames. But his biggest highlight came the day before at the practice and family skate that followed at McMahon Stadium.

Though Weber's parents weren't able to fly in from Switzerland, he said he enjoyed watching his teammates celebrate the moment with their friends and family members.

"I didn't have anyone," he said. "It's a little bit far for them for one game so I didn't have anyone. I know the guys had a blast bringing their families on the ice. It's something special I'll always remember."

Weber won't have any family members in Vancouver on Saturday because they were just with him at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, that doesn't change the fact that the practice day and family skate remain the best part of the NHL outdoor games.

"It's kind of like the time to enjoy the whole Heritage Classic," he said. "Once the game is on, you're focused on your game and you want to look at it as just another game because you want those two points for us. This year it's going to be really important. The day before, Saturday, is going to be cool. Guys can bring their kids and wives and family. It's going to be awesome."

It's also a long way from the rinks he grew up skating on in Switzerland.

"Switzerland is pretty small, we don't have that many arenas," Weber said. "It's more like outside rinks or rinks with no roof and stuff. As kids there was a lot of time outside. It's special. … [The Heritage Classic] is going to have a little bit of that feeling, being somewhere different, somewhere big."


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