CALGARY-- Bad news for the 40 or so members of press row who are in town to cover the Heritage Classic this weekend. The media game, scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday morning, had to be cancelled because of freezing cold temperatures. It was a brisk -22C when the word went out - that the risk of damaging the temporary sheet of outdoor ice at McMahon Stadium was too great to permit a game under those conditions.
It was the correct call, as disappointing as it was for a whole lot of a wannabe outdoor stars, whose skates would have chewed up the brittle ice surface. Back in 2003, a similar weather-related issue almost forced the postponement of the original Heritage Classic between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. Temperatures at game time were around -18C, right around the cut-off point - where playing under those conditions would have been too hazardous; the injury risk too great.
The Flames' Steve Staois played for Edmonton in that game, played a game-high 28 minutes and six seconds, and remembers it being playable but just barely. "They did everything they could to make it playable under those conditions - and I'm sure it's hard to do."
And on Friday, impossible.
The good news is the forecast promises better days ahead for the two more important events - Saturday's alumni game featuring members of the Flames' 1989 championship team, followed by Sunday's match between the Flames and the Canadiens, which has important playoff considerations. Calgary is one of four Western Conference teams with 68 points, leaving the Flames three behind third-place Phoenix and three ahead of 10th-place Minnesota. Temperatures are supposed to rise throughout the day today, topping out at -11C. Tomorrow, it calls for a high of -4C and Sunday, it should reach a practically balmy -2C - which, if it holds, should create almost perfect ice conditions.