NHL announces 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary; Flames uniforms cause a stir


2011 Heritage Classic.jpgWhile we’ve got the Winter Classic to get excited about here in the United States, Canada is getting their own outdoor game once again this year with the resuming of the Heritage Classic. Back in 2003, Edmonton and Montreal played an outdoor game in November at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. This time around, Montreal will head to the other big city in Alberta and take on the Calgary Flames on Sunday, February 20th at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

Today, the NHL and Gary Bettman held their press conference to announce the game in earnest and unveil flamesheritagejersey.jpg

If your first thought after viewing that is to ask if you’ve run out of ketchup and mustard, you can’t be faulted. If your other thought is how ironically amusing it’ll be to see Flames legend Lanny McDonald wearing one of these then you’re right there with me. As for why the Flames are wearing a jersey they’ve never worn before in the team’s history, fear not, there’s a good explanation as to what, exactly, this jersey is.

The Calgary Flames are proud to announce that they will wear a fusion design jersey honouring the history of professional hockey in Calgary (inspired by the Calgary Tigers’ uniform) for the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 versus the Montreal Canadiens.

The Tigers helped form the Western Canada Hockey League in 1921 to become the first major professional team in Calgary. In 1924, after winning the Western Canadian Championships, the Tigers became the first Calgary-based club to compete for the Stanley Cup, losing the best of three Finals in a sweep to the Montreal Canadiens led by Georges Vezina and Howie Morenz.

The Flames worked with the design team at Reebok to create the vintage look. The jersey features the same jersey striping pattern with a beige Flames C logo in a vintage felt application.

All right so at least that’s a noble nod to honor the past professional hockey efforts in Calgary. Perhaps recognizing the team’s original roots in Atlanta might’ve been a nice touch too, but let’s not get too crazy. As it is, give credit to Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy flamesheritageuniform.jpg

I’m not exactly a fashion maven myself here and I’m perhaps the least trendy person alive, but this will give me nightmares for a while and I’m going to blame the cream-colored breezers for it. If nothing else, those will help distract from the McDonald Land nightmare that are those jerseys. It’s fitting, however, that after the Canadiens have exposed fans and other teams alike to a host of sometimes horrifying jerseys to celebrate their 100th anniversary that they’ll get a first-hand look at what could be one of the more infamous jersey faux-pas of recent memory.

One added thing they’re doing with the game in Calgary is hosting a WHL game the day after the Heritage Classic between the local Calgary Hitmen and the oldest team in the WHL, the Regina Pats. Doing things like this, like they did in Boston last year having a college hockey doubleheader at Fenway Park, helps the league do nice things for the smaller yet still notable local hockey operations in town. Spreading the wealth to the smaller guys does a lot of good things for local public relations and every little bit helps the league out.

After 20-game absence, Elias to make season debut for Devils

Patrik Elias
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It took a while, but Patrik Elias‘ campaign is ready to get underway.

Elias, who’s yet to play this year because of a knee injury, says he’ll be in the New Jersey lineup tonight when the Devils host the Blue Jackets at Prudential (per The Record).

The 39-year-old’s presence should provide an emotional lift in front of the home crowd.

A lifelong Devil — only Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur have appeared in more games — fans may be witnessing Elias’ last year in uniform. It’s fair to suggest he could be on the verge of retirement, given he’s in the last of a three-year, $16.5 million deal and will turn 40 in April.

As for tonight, it’s not yet official who Elias will play with — or how much he’ll play. He did take line rushes with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau at Tuesday’s practice.

After three-game absence, Johnson back for Bolts this week

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The Lightning have a busy stretch of the schedule coming up, with three games in the next four nights.

And it sounds like they’ll get a big lineup reinforcement to help them through it.

Per LA Kings Insider — the Kings are in Tampa tonight — Bolts head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Tyler Johnson will be back in the lineup “at some point” this week, after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Johnson has been out of the lineup since taking a Dave Bolland hit on Nov. 14. The timing of the injury was lousy, especially since Johnson looked to be rounding into form — after a rough October in which he failed to score a goal and had just five points in 12 games, Johnson was playing well in November, with three goals and five points in his first six games.

There’s no denying the Bolts could use Johnson back in the mix.

The club has been ravaged by injury lately and is currently without the services of Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette at forward.

The injuries are a big reason why Tampa is off to a mediocre 10-9-3 start. That said, the team has looked good in each of its last two games — a 2-1 win over the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, followed by a 5-0 blowout of the Ducks on Saturday.

As for when Johnson might get back in? The Bolts play tonight at home against L.A., on Friday in Washington, then back at home on Saturday against the Islanders.

Will the Bruins re-sign Loui Eriksson?

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Loui Eriksson, one of the key pieces Boston acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, is in the last of his six-year, $25.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

And, at least for now, there doesn’t appear to be much certainty about his future as a Bruin.

“I’ll never, ever comment publicly in regard to individual players and negotiations and such,” B’s GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week. “Whether (comments) come out from the other side or wherever, they’re not going to come from me.

“He’s a big part of our team and he’s off to a really good start.”

Eriksson is certainly off to a good start — nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, his highest points-per-game average (.90) since coming to Boston, and the second-highest of his career.

He’s also playing nearly 20 minutes per night, enjoying great chemistry playing alongside David Krejci and, after an injury-riddled first year as a Bruin followed by last year’s playoff miss, seems to have really found his groove.

So why the silence on the extension front?

Two weeks ago, Eriksson told the Globe his agent, J.P. Barry, hasn’t had any discussions with Sweeney about re-signing in Boston.

“There’s not much you can really do about it now,” the 30-year-old Swede explained. “I’m trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we’ll see what happens after this year.”

Obviously, money is a factor.

Looking ahead, Boston’s current cap crunch doesn’t project to get much lighter. The club already has $61 million in salary committed for next season (per War On Ice), and Sweeney has to be mindful of other important contracts on the horizon.

Torey Krug is a restricted free agent at year’s end, and in line for a raise on the $3.4 million he made this season. Brad Marchand will be a UFA following the ’16-17 campaign.

And you’d think Sweeney would want to keep money free to eventually sort out Boston’s defense. The blueline has been an issue this season; it’s also getting old and will likely need an injection of new blood in the near future.

There’s also the question if, should he head to free agency, Eriksson couldn’t be replaced internally. The B’s are flush with young wingers — Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Seth Griffith, David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev are all 26 or under — which could make Eriksson expendable.

PHT Morning Skate: There’s a third Strome brother on the horizon

Ryan Strome, Johnny Boychuk
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Matthew Strome — the younger brother of the Isles’ Ryan and the Coyotes’ Dylan — is making waves as a 16-year-old rookie with OHL Hamilton. (NHL.com)

Vern Fiddler caught country legend George Straight’s hat at a concert this summer. He’s apparently received big money offers for the lid, but isn’t willing to sell. (Ottawa Sun)

Is Anders Nilsson the Oilers’ No. 1 goalie? (Edmonton Journal)

Good piece here on Max Pacioretty‘s captaincy in Montreal. (New York Times)

Some appreciation for gritty Leafs forward Leo Komarov. (Toronto Sun)

According to this piece, GM Marc Bergevin has been the Habs’ MVP this season. (Montreal Gazette)