There wasn’t much fanfare the last time Alex Tanguay played an outdoor hockey game.
Tanguay was on a pond with his brother ten years ago on Christmas Day in Colorado when they asked if they could join a game against four other skaters.
When Tanguay and his then 12-year-old brother started scoring at will, it didn’t take long for their opponents to realize they weren’t just playing another guy with skates and a stick.
“After a little while they picked out that I was playing in the NHL, so it was really nice. You know it’s so much fun playing outside. It’s a very unique experience,” said Tanguay, who went on to win a Stanley Cup that year with the Avalanche.
“Now being in the NHL and getting the chance to play that game outside, it’s going to be fun and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Flames forward will have a lot more eyes on him Sunday when Calgary hosts the Montreal Canadiens at McMahon Stadium for the Heritage Classic.
The NHL expects over 41,000 spectators to take in the first outdoor hockey game in Canada since 2003, when Edmonton hosted a chilly match against the Habs at Commonwealth Stadium.
Players and fans shouldn’t need to bundle up too much for the game. Clear skies are expected with a high of 4 C.
“I think the first thing we’re going to do, we’re going to talk to the rink crew to get the wind to our backs for the first two periods,” joked Tanguay.
“As far as I’m concerned I’m just hoping that the weather is going to be decent and the ice is going to be good.”
Whereas Tanguay will be making his outdoor debut, the experience will be old hat to teammate David Moss.
Moss previously played outside for the University of Michigan and last year skated for the United States in a game at an open soccer stadium during the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Germany.
Moss said he thinks playing outside will add to the experience of what should be a tense game.
“The game is going to be a fun game anyway,” said Moss. “And with the importance of us fighting for a playoff spot, and Montreal already being in a spot and their fighting for a position too, I think that adds to the atmosphere and probably will add to the intensity of the game.”
Both teams already have plenty to play for without the added pressure of winning the novelty game.
Montreal is fifth in the Eastern Conference after shutting out Toronto 3-0 on Saturday. Calgary, which is coming off a 9-1 rout of Colorado on Monday, holds the eighth playoff spot after surging up the Western standings with nine wins in 12 games.
“I think maybe earlier on, a little bit before we went on that run, we were into games, we just weren’t finding ways to win and getting some bounces,” said Moss. “And now I think guys are playing more consistent and we’re getting some breaks.”
Tanguay added the unique atmosphere won’t change the team’s preparation for the game. But that isn’t stopping him from anticipating stepping out onto the ice in front of a rowdy hometown crowd.
“As players, we are definitely going to try to feed off the crowd, and we know it’s going to be a very unique experience for us,” he said. “Not too many guys get to experience this in the NHL, playing in front of 40,000 people in your home, with your home crowd on your side.
“So it’s going to be fun, we’re looking forward to it.”