The NHL’s “Heritage Classic” on Sunday night got me thinking about the real definition of the words used in the title of the event.
Frankly, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle around all six of the NHL’s outdoor games since the Habs and Oilers first faced off at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003, for the most part they haven’t really been all that classic.
No, with all the choppy ice and iffy weather, the games generally aren’t great – but they are good for hockey, and that’s because of the first word in the title of the event: heritage.
Probably more so than any of the other four major North American sports, hockey is about history, tradition, and passing the torch.
Here in NDG, the great hockey tradition that has been built is evident in, around, and all over Doug Harvey Arena.
Just the name of the rink alone says a lot: Harvey was probably the best NHL player ever to come out of our community – apologies to Sergio Momesso.
Inside the centre of all things hockey in NDG there are hundreds of banners celebrating the local association’s many, many, many league, playoff and tournament championships. And the aspect of passing the torch is obvious every time a five- or six-year-old hits the ice.
But while Harvey (formerly known as Confederation Arena) and Côte-des-Neiges’ Bill Durnan are the centres of today’s NDG hockey universe, it wasn’t too, too long ago that the game was played almost exclusively outdoors.
“I played in Terrebonne Park just before all the park leagues merged with NDG. This was back in the late 70s and we’d have like a huge carnival with skills competitions, a barbecue going, and it was this big event,” NDG Hockey exec Ray Mason told me.
“We were, if I remember correctly, Terrebonne, Loyola, McDonald, NDG – which played out of Girouard Park, and St-Pascal from CDN. Confederation was the only indoor rink back then, so you’d be lucky to have the chance to skate indoors.”
So what of a return to the classic outdoor format for some league games in the future?
“We did one once at Trenholme Park about five or six years ago. It was a Novice A exhibition game and it went amazing and was a blast. We just never did it again, but it’s something to for sure look at again. Honestly, there’s no specific reason we haven’t done it again – maybe we’ll look at it for next year,” Mason said.
While I’ll gladly admit I’m happy I never had to suit up with my goalie equipment in the cold, I certainly encourage NDG to go back to its roots and host a game or two outdoors every year.
Just like the Heritage and Winter Classic NHL games, taking hockey outside is simply good for the game.
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