2011 Heritage Classic

Your 2011 Heritage Classic primer

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Some might look at the transition from the 2011 Hockey Day in America double-header to the Heritage Classic as American hockey passing the torch to a frigid outdoor game in Canada, but it ultimately comes down to a day full of treats for hockey fans. Between NBC and Versus, U.S. puckheads can experience about nine straight hours of hockey this Sunday. So let’s take a look at an event some might call Canada’s answer to the Winter Classic.

The beauty of this February 20th game is that it lands deeper into the playoff picture than the January 1st Winter Classic, which means that the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames will have plenty to play for.

The Habs are locked into an intense race for the Northeast Division crown, as they currently trail their hated rivals the Boston Bruins for four points. Meanwhile the red-hot Flames forced their way into the Western Conference playoff picture, as they’re in a five-way tie for sixth place but are technically seated at 10th right now.

So with this playoff push in mind, three injured Canadiens might play in the game for reasons beyond the right to play in a historic game. NHL.com reports that Michael Cammalleri and Hal Gill are likely to make their returns to the Habs lineup, but the biggest upset is that James Wisniewski might also play only three days after blocking a shot with his face. (You can check out his nasty, Matt Hendricks-reminiscent wound in this post’s main image, via NHL.com.)

Forward Mike Cammalleri and defenseman Hal Gill both appear ready to return to the lineup, and Canadiens coach Jacques Martin even termed it “a good possibility” that defenseman James Wisniewski would be able to play less than 72 hours after being struck in the face by a puck in Thursday’s loss in Edmonton.

As you can see, this game means quite a bit to both teams, even beyond the big picture opportunity of playing an NHL contest outdoors in hockey-mad Canada.

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Weather has been the focus on Friday and Saturday, but all signs point to the show going on.

Feast your eyes on Carey Price’s really odd looking Heritage Classic mask, which is a tribute to goalie mask pioneer and all-time Montreal Canadiens great Jacques Plante.

Calgary officials track down some counterfeit HC jerseys.

NHL shares artist rendering of 2011 Heritage Classic

On the same day (February 20, 2011) as Hockey Day in America, the NHL will also provide the world with the Canadian-tinged version of the Winter Classic. (Yes, I know that the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens participated in the first Heritage Classic years before the first WC.)

That event is the 2011 Heritage Classic, an outdoor game in which the Canadiens will play against the Calgary Flames.

The league provided an artist’s rendering of what that outdoor game might look like, which you can see in this post’s main image. It’s obviously quite believable to imagine the snowy, idyllic atmosphere in that picture since it is taking place in Calgary in the middle of February.

The press release points out “Spectator Plaza” to the right, “the outdoor hockey and entertainment festival” that will take place from February 19 at noon to the afternoon of February 20th. Sounds like a great time for fans, which will be televised on the CBC in Canada and Versus in the U.S. at 6pm ET.

Report: Flames, Canadiens will stage alumni game for ’86 Cup Finals during 2011 Heritage Classic weekend

The (modern) Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals weren’t the only teams to play at Heinz Field during the 2011 Winter Classic as Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Peter Bondra and other retired stars skated again during an alumni game. It looks like the 2011 Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens will hold a similar event, at least if rumors are correct.

Dave Stubbs from Habs Inside/Out reports that the Flames and Habs will invite alumni from the 1986 Stanley Cup finals series to play in a game on February 19th. That ’86 series is remembered for Patrick Roy’s Ken Dryden-like Stanley Cup run and was the second most recent instance in which the Habs won it all.

Stubbs writes that an official announcement is expected “in the next few days.”

The 2011 Heritage Classic is set to take place at McMahon Stadium at the University of Calgary on February 20th. Expect more coverage of the game as the event approaches.