When the 2011 Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames
and Montreal Canadiens
gets under way at McMahon Stadium on Feb. 20, only one member of the Flames will be able to say he's done this before.
Defenseman Steve Staios
took part in the 2003 Heritage Classic as a member of the Edmonton Oilers
. He had a goal and a pair of assists, but the Canadiens came away with a 4-3 victory in front of 57,167 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. The only thing he'd probably change -- besides the outcome -- was the sub-zero temperatures in which the game was played.
Still, there's no one on the Flames who can appreciate how special the 2011 Heritage Classic will be better than Staios.
"It really is an incredible event, and to get the chance to come outside and do it I think it's a memorable experience for us," Staios said Wednesday. "It's my second chance at it. It could happen once a year and it would still be great, it would still be a lot of fun for me."
Even with the weather the way it was?
"Can you keep ice in this weather?" Staios joked while standing on the hot FieldTurf at McMahon Stadium. "They did a great job in Edmonton to keep the ice playable. It was so cold that it was chipping up a little bit but they did a great job. I know the event here is going to be incredible with the fans here in Calgary. It's one of those things where it brings the spirit of the game to the forefront.
"The thing I most remember is probably getting out there in the starting lineup and listening to the national anthem and kind of taking a quick look around and realizing the magnitude of the event. I'm looking forward to doing that again here."
For Flames forward Curtis Glencross
and defenseman Cory Sarich
, it will be an altogether new experience.
The 27-year-old Glencross grew up in Kindersley, Sask., while the 31-year-old Sarich was raised in Saskatoon, Sask., as was Staios. As repetitive as it may get to say, there aren't too many Western Canadian boys who don't have some sort of experience with outdoor hockey as kids.
"As far as outdoors, I've skated on some of the best ice in my life when I was in Saskatchewan," Sarich said. "We'd get some mid-spring days where it would thaw during the day then it would freeze hard for the next morning. I've played on some slews in Saskatchewan probably as big as this stadium. You'd miss a pass with the puck or you'd miss the net with the puck and that thing would just keep going and keep going and keep going. That's a vivid memory of mine."
Glencross said playing outdoors in front of a big crowd will be something special.
"It's something where you grew up and all your roots and all your good times you remember having fun playing hockey on the outdoor rink with all your friends and family and finally making it to the NHL," Glencross said. "Doing it in front of millions of people all over the world, it’s going to be neat to come home and have your friends and family here again watching you do it in one of the biggest game of the year."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo