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Possible outdoor game in Canada interests Flames

by Todd Kimberley /

"It's a nice tradition in hockey that's been started. If it is, we'll be ready to play. But I don't mind watching 'em on TV, too." -- Calgary captain Jarome Iginla on the possibility of the Flames playing in next year's Winter Classic

CALGARY -- Jarome Iginla grew up on the frozen winter streets of St. Albert, Alberta.

So the Calgary Flames captain is all for the idea of Calgary joining the NHL's annual outdoor-game parade ... we think.

"It could be great ... if it's minus-2 or 3" Celsius, which is 27 Fahrenheit, grinned Iginla Thursday.

"It's a nice tradition in hockey that's been started. If it is, we'll be ready to play. But I don't mind," he added with another smile, "watching 'em on TV, too."

Last June, the Stampede City was abuzz with the possibility that Calgary would host the second half of a Winter Classic doubleheader on New Year's Day 2010, following the clash between the Philadelphia Flyers and host Boston Bruins at Fenway Park ( 1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

That doubleheader idea was later put on hold.

But Wednesday, during the second day of the NHL's annual Board of Governors' Meetings at Pebble Beach, Calif., word came down that the NHL might add a second outdoor game, in addition to the 2011 Winter Classic, one which would be based in Canada and feature two Canadian teams.

The Flames are believed to be among the favorites to host the game, if it happens.

No one in the Flames dressing room was involved in the 2003 Heritage Classic between Montreal and host Edmonton, or either of the NHL's first two Winter Classics, held at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium and Chicago's Wrigley Field.

But Flames forwards David Moss and Eric Nystrom did play in the granddaddy of them all -- the Cold War, an Oct. 6, 2001 game between college rivals Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium.

Moss and Nystrom were Wolverines rookies during the 3-3 draw, which set a world attendance record for an ice hockey game -- 74,544.

"One of the best hockey experiences I ever had," said Nystrom, 26, of Syosset, N.Y.

"Amazing experience. My first game ever in college; and it's hard to top that. Everything after that was kind of a letdown.

"The atmosphere was crazy. It was like a football atmosphere. People were tailgating. The night was perfect. The game went by like a blur, it was so surreal. It was great, truly an amazing experience."

Added Moss, the 27-year-old from Livonia, Mich.: "A cool experience, with all the things leading up to it, with the tailgating and the hype surrounding it."

Since the NHL has adopted the Winter Classic, "it gives fans a little bit of a different experience," added Moss. "It's got non-traditional NHL fans to come watch, and I think it's a great event."

The Heritage Classic, the forerunner to the Winter Classic, was held before 57,167 fans at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003 at a bone-chilling temperature of -30 C (-22 F), including wind chill values.

Flames players don't feel a similar plunge of the mercury would keep fans away from McMahon Stadium, the likely venue. The stadium holds about 35,000 and was expanded to a 50,000-seat facility for the 2009 Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League's championship game, in November.

"I know lots of people who went to the game in Edmonton," said defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. "It was really cold that day, but if they hold (an outdoor game) in Canada, people will sit through that. They like hockey. They don't care. They're there to have a good time.

"They should have one in Canada. It's almost more fitting. People in Canada definitely deserve it."

Added Iginla: "Yeah, we've got great hockey fans, not scared of a little cold weather. I think they'd be out there, yeah. Good support, for sure."
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