After almost a year of hype, the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic is now a page in history. The game was a sellout, with 41,022 fans braving the elements to attend, and I’m happy to say that I was a part of it. From the moment my family and I started layering-up in our warm clothing at home, to waiting in the rowdy lineup in front of McMahon stadium, to finally arriving at our seats and soaking in the atmosphere, it was worth every penny I spent on it. I had 4 of 6 of my family members there with me and it was truly a great day for hockey fans in Calgary.
The fact that the Flames came out victorious, earning the first shutout in a modern-era outdoor NHL hockey didn’t hurt either. Miikka Kiprusoff backstopped the Flames to a 4-0 victory by stopping 39 shots and earned his 4th shutout of the season and 38th in his career. Kipper played a rock-solid game and you could tell that it was going to be tough to get anything past him. Even on odd-man rushes, Miikka was always in position and controlled his rebounds excellently. His effort won him first-star-of-the-game honours.
It was definitely a difficult game for everyone on the ice. The temperature at the start was about -8 degrees Celsius, and it dropped steadily throughout the game. The wind wasn’t really a factor, but the condition of the ice was. The puck seemed to always be rolling and bouncing over everyone’s sticks and it was a challenge to complete a lot of passes cleanly. The ice wasn’t as bad as it seemed to be in the Alumni Game, and, with the exception of a spot in the corner next to the Canadiens bench, it was good enough for the NHL game this afternoon.
Rene Bourque lead the Flames with 2 goals (the 99th and 100th of his career) and was chosen as the 2nd star of the game. Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist and was named the 3rd star of the game. Anton Babchuck scored the 2nd Flames goal while killing a penalty in the 2nd period. Though they didn’t end up on the scoreboard, both Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester played great and contributed to Kipper’s shutout in a big way.
With the win, Calgary leap-frogs over Anaheim, LA, Dallas and Minnesota and now sits in 6th place in the Western Conference. The Flames have fewer games left to play than all of these teams, so they’ll need to continue their hot streak for the rest of the season to secure a spot in the playoffs. Whatever the result is at the end of the season, Flames fans can bask in the glory of their win tonight and sleep well knowing that we’ll be in the history books for earning the first shutout in an Outdoor NHL game.