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Montreal's Gorges eager for outdoor game

by Dave Lozo
CALGARY -- Some critics might say the novelty of the outdoor hockey game has worn off.  Defenseman Josh Gorges doesn't agree.

The 25-year-old native of Kelowna, B.C., could not have been more enthusiastic about the prospect of taking part in the 2011 Heritage Classic between his Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium on Feb. 20. Gorges hasn't been able to get enough of the Winter Classics, so it's a dream come true for him to get a chance to take part in Canada's version of outdoor NHL hockey.

"I think it's unbelievable. I don't think I've missed one. When they're on, you watch them," Gorges said Wednesday during a news conference at the stadium. "After watching them, you say, 'That would be fun to play in.' Only a select few players get a chance to be apart of it. I think for all of us to be here, it's special. You never know if you'll get a chance to do this again, at this level, at this magnitude, so we want to embrace it, have fun with it."

The Canadiens took part in the only other outdoor NHL game played in Canada, beating the Oilers in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003. Gorges was only 19 at the time, but his eyes lit up when he began thinking back to seeing that game on TV.

"I know growing up watching that game, you watch it and you want to be apart of it," Gorges said. "I'm thankful to be here today and knowing I'm going to be apart of it this year, it's very exciting. I know talking with a lot of guys on the team, we're very excited to be there."

Gorges said there are a few other Western Canadian players on the Canadiens -- Ryan O'Byrne (Victoria, B.C.), Carey Price (Anahim Lake, B.C.) and Travis Moen (Swift Current, Sask.) -- who are also excited not only about playing outdoors, but being able to do so close to where they grew up.

"Obviously a chance to play in front of this many fans in Calgary where hockey is so big, it's thrilling for any sports fan, any sports player -- but also from being out West, it'll be easy for our family to come and check out the game," Gorges said. "From growing up in Western Canada, you couldn't ask for nothing more than to play outside in Calgary. This is great.

"Talking to those guys and having it so close to home, all our friends and family can make the easy trip down, I think it's great for us."

Gorges' biggest problem might be getting tickets for everyone who will no doubt want to attend the historic game.

"That's what I'm worried about," Gorges said with a laugh. "It might be a few too many. I'll put a few on COD maybe."

During the news conference, a video montage of past outdoor games was played on the big board at McMahon Stadium. You'll be hard-pressed to find a Canadian player who didn't grow up playing outside, and Gorges is no different.

"As kids, we grow up playing outdoors. Watching that video before, you get shivers just watching it," Gorges said. "Knowing that you're going to get a chance to step out there and be apart of that, I don't know that there's anything better."

For all of the excitement Gorges has for Heritage Classic -- and who could blame him -- that energy will eventually need to be channeled into playing a regular-season hockey game with two points on the line.

"I think up until the drop of the puck, it'll be a lot of excitement and people talking about the buzz of what it's like to play in a Heritage Classic game," Gorges said. "I think once the puck drops and the game starts, I'm sure all that gets thrown out the window and it's just another hockey game. We'll want to go out there and win just bad as they will. I think there's still that rivalry between Montreal and Calgary, both very proud, I think the intensity level will be high when the puck drops."

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