VANCOUVER -- The last time Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris was on the field at BC Place, he was wearing cleats instead of skates and trying to pass a football instead of shoot a puck.
Turris was a quarterback at St. Thomas More Collegiate, a Catholic high school in suburban Vancouver, and played in the annual B.C. high school football provincial championships, which are held at BC Place.
He'll be trying to score goals instead of touchdowns there on Sunday when he takes the ice for the Senators against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Center - OTT
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 44
SOG: 164 | +/-: 15
"I played in one in grade 8 and watched my buddies play in grades 9, 10, 11, 12," Turris said after returning to BC Place to practice with the Senators on Saturday. "Football was fun but in Grade 8 I was 4-foot-11 and couldn't see over my O-line, so I was just throwing it up in the air and praying that somebody would catch it."
Turris said his football dreams -- NFL, not Canadian Football League, he insisted -- died when he broke his wrist trying out for the Grade 10 team.
"I was a quarterback and I couldn't throw, so that's when I packed it in and focused more on hockey," Turris said.
Eight years later, the Senators are glad he did.
Turris is tied for fourth in scoring on the Senators with 44 points, and he's a big part of a late-season push for an Ottawa team that will take the ice five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
With so much on the line, Turris was trying to find that balance between soaking up the excitement of having such a big game in his hometown and being ready to play the Vancouver Canucks.
"You want to mix them both, you want to take in the atmosphere and enjoy it," he said. "It's something not many people get to experience, but at the same time you have to realize how important the game is."
Turris found that balance Saturday, inviting his wife and parents onto the ice for the family skate that followed practice. As he skated around, he couldn't help but think back to those high school football days. Of course that was before they chopped the permanent top off BC Place and replaced it with the retractable roof that was open Saturday.
"It was neat, obviously before it was renovated but it was really cool, a great experience and something I still remember," said Turris, who never would have dreamed of playing an NHL game here back then.
"When I was in Grade 8 I don't even think there was a Winter Classic game, so I didn't know there would be outdoor games, let alone one in Vancouver," he said.
Turris said he's going back to his football roots to help him through his first outdoor hockey game.
"I went out at first with no eye black on and there was quite a bit of glare and you were squinting a lot," he said. "So I put it on and noticed quite a bit of a difference so I will probably use that [Sunday]."
He'll look a lot like he did the last time he was at BC Place, except this time he'll be in skates rather than cleats.