Classic provides many defining moments
A defining moment.
It occurs in every hockey game. A big save, a big hit, a big fight. A highlight reel goal.
At the outdoor Heritage Classic staged in front of 41,022 at McMahon Stadium Sunday under blue skies and in chilly Rocky Mountain temperatures, there were many defining moments.
From the ice-making to the pageantry to the throwback, tribute uniforms, to the 40,000-plus fans, to the game itself. There are so many moments from the Heritage Classic that picking one just would not do the event justice.
And this is an event that deserves justice.
Rene Bourque, who hails from Lac La Biche, right here in Alberta, had several defining moments in this game. He scored the first goal of the Classic on a power play in the first period. He then dangled off the wall, cut to the net and beat Carey Price with a backhand from in tight to score his second of the game -- and 100th goal of his NHL career -- to the delight of the partisan Flames crowd.
It was Bourque's first two-goal game since late October and may signal that the forward is back on his game. The goals were just his fifth and sixth since December 18th, a span of 28 games.
Bourque became the fifth player to score two goals at an outdoor game -- the others being Yanic Perreault, Richard Zednik, Jiri Hudler and Eric Fehr.
He also had 11 shots on net.
"I think 11 shots is the most in my career," said Bourque. "For some reason the puck just kept coming to me on the left side. The first one happened fast. The second one I got a lucky bounce but I knew I was going to have some room and some time and was able to slip it five-hole. To get the 100th goal like that is special."
How special was the game for Bourque?
"It's right up there with playing your first NHL game and scoring your first goal," he said. "It's just fun to be part of this and playing in front of these people, especially when you are sitting on the bench and you're looking out and seeing 40,000 people. It's cold outside but they are cheering and having a good time."
Was a defining moment Jarome Iginla's picture saucer pass across the crease to Alex Tanguay for the Flames fourth goal of the game? That's something you might see on a pond, but to execute that touch pass under the conditions and the speed of the NHL game, was indeed special.
Tanguay, who also had an assist on Bourque's first goal, said the game will be one he remembers fondly.
"Definitely not Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but this is a game that, after my career I am certainly going to cherish and remember. It's not every day that for us as players...it is not every day that you get to do it in a big stadium like that and in front of that many fans. For the fans for brave the weather and stay out there for three periods -- we were out there skating (Saturday) and we were cold. Those fans stayed out there for three periods. Sitting in their seats. It's pretty remarkable. It's a neat experience and I am glad I've experienced it."
Watching the players enter and exit the rink, was a defining moment. There were buckets filled with skate guards, so, as they left the ice, they were fitted with skate guards and when they returned, they dropped them in the bucket, just like they did as kids playing on ponds.
Maybe the fact that there was no Zamboni, just hoses, water and squeegees used to re-surface the ice between periods, ranks as a defining moment.
Maybe too, people will remember the 41,000 standing tall, a C of Red, as the final seconds of the game ticked away and the game entered the history books.
Those kids, skating on the make-shift pond at the south end of the rink, below the big screen were also a defining moment. The represented exactly what this event was all about, a celebration of the roots of hockey. A tribute to all the parents and kids who have ever shoveled off a piece of the lake and cut their first turn on a fresh, brisk morning.
"We are having so much fun," noted one lucky skater, interviewed in-game on the big screen.
Those five words may just sum up the entire event. For the fans. And for the players.
And all the defining moments that came with it.