In many people’s eyes, the 2011 Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens seems like a waste of time and effort.
With an extremely important two points on the line, the result will surely outweigh the ceremony, and despite the NBA All-Star game also taking place tonight, it’s a good bet the Heritage Classic will get plenty of attention.
Indeed, despite neither Montreal or Calgary having the big names as Pittsburgh and Washington sent onto the ice on New Year’s Day, there is perhaps even more interest in the Heritage Classic than the Winter Classic.
The Heritage Classic is likely to be seen as a celebration of Canada’s relationship with hockey. With the important two points on the table, it may make for a more exciting game than the Winter Classic.
According to NHL Executive Vice President of Marketing Brian Jennings, the Heritage Classic’s sponsorship revenue has already exceeded that of the Winter Classic. Clearly people want to see the game, with both sides having a gigantic fan base.
Both Montreal and Calgary have a long-lasting hockey heritage. The Canadiens are extremely proud of their 24 Stanley Cups, despite not lifting the trophy since 1993. The Calgary Flames may only have been in existence since 1980, but hockey has always been a part of the host city. The Calgary Tigers operated from 1920-1936 and even reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1924. When the Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980 they were instantly a hit with the fans.
The Flames were one of the best teams in the NHL in the late 1980s, culminating in them winning their only Stanley Cup in 1989 when they brushed aside Montreal in six games. The Flames may have only lifted the cup once, but neither the Vancouver Canucks or the Ottawa Senators have managed to do so.
The Flames and Habs shared a rivalry in the late 1980s which inspired many Canadians. The two had met previously in the 1986 finals, with Montreal coming out on top. Calgary fans are famous for creating the intimidating ‘Red Mile’ and ‘C of Red’ which is likely to be resurrected tonight after 16,000 special Heritage Classic Flames jerseys have flown off the shelves.
Several players involved in tonight’s game have played for both Montreal and Calgary, including Mike Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay. There may be several scores to settle, and much pride at stake as Canada watches two of its proudest teams do battle.