by Patrick Hoffman on 02/21/11 at 03:00 PM ET
PH: First off, tell us about your thoughts when you decided you were going to cover the Heritage Classic for The Face-Off Hockey Show?
SW: The only thought was that I was lucky enough to be living in Calgary and able to get the nod from the NHL brass (who were fantastic at this event, by the way) to be able to get into this experience. It really worked out well for the show as Jonny and Marc (the other co-hosts) were able to get up to Pittsburgh to cover the Winter Classic. We had “Classic” year, to use a horrible, David Caruso-esque phrasing.
PH: What was it like seeing McMahon Stadium turned into a hockey rink/arena for a few days?
SW: Football fields make the best hockey rinks, and McMahon is no different. They had to bring in some rafters for one of the endzones, as the CFL doesn’t have as much capacity as NFL field. The set-up was great, they did a bang-up job on making everything surrounding the rink very festive and capturing the essence of the outdoor game in Canada.
PH: What did you think of the Alumni Game? In your opinion, which players looked like they could still skate in the NHL today?
SW: The Alumni Game was just a shinny game, so it’s not like you really gauge one or another—but you had the recent retirees like Craig Conroy who had a little jump; Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts looked like they could still go and Eric Fichaud was the unlikeliest of candidates to play in goal seemed look as sharp as he could.
PH: What was the atmosphere like? What were fans looking forward to the most when it came to this year’s Heritage Classic?
SW: The atmosphere was electric. The Spectator Plaza that the NHL put up was fantastic and really brought attention to most, if not all, of the sponsors who were pushing their wears. It was interactive, it was fun, it was everything you wanted to have for fan inclusion. And everyone was very corgial in their rivalry. Not many reports of anyone getting too out of hand, it seemed while they had their team loyalties; they all also wanted to take in the event for what it was.
PH: What did you think of the game itself? Was it everything you thought it would be?
SW: There was a lot of reports out of practice that the ice was very brittle and even in the Alumni game, there were multiple stoppages for the ice being chipped up. Luckily, there were only two spots of concern for the game and they were attentive to it at all. There wasn’t much hitting, as would be expected, and there were some issues with the ice. However, the Flames were able to figure out how to work their gameplan to counteract the bouncing, while the Habs never really got the hang of the ice and how to go about adjusting. While they had 39 shots, there were few quality rebounds out there and scoring chances generated.
PH: Do you think the NHL should consider doing more outdoor events? Why or why not?
SW: There has been talk that some of the NHL Board would love to have more and more—but if you want to just do one or two a year, that’d be perfect. Maybe get the timing a little earlier, as this game is very late and very impactful in the standings—but I think you sully a bit of the allure of the game if you add more and more—plus, you’ll run out of locations. As much as a wizard as NHL Ice Guru Dan Craig is, it’s much harder to try and force a game in Phoenix or Dallas when it comes to maintaining a good ice standard. You keep it at one Winter Classic and maybe a Heritage Classic every few years, since Canada has fewer franchises.
PH: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with Kukla’s Korner readers?
SW: If there’s a chance to experience just the festivities surrounding the game, then people should do it. The game itself is a great spectacle, but if you can’t get in—the next best thing is to go and take part of the fans stuff around the arena just see the experience there.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.