Vancouver’s first NHL outdoor hockey game was surrounded with skepticism from the day it was announced. After all, how would an outdoor game work in March in a notoriously rainy city that barely had enough snow on the mountains in February of 2010 when they hosted the Olympic Winter Games? The result was a game that felt more like an indoor game played inside a giant stadium then an outdoor game, as the roof of BC Place remained closed for the entire event.
Many scoffed at the idea that the event would be sold out; ticket prices were far from cheap. Their skepticism was encouraged when there was a sudden flurry of contests and spontaneous giveaways of free tickets to minor hockey teams during the last few weeks before the game (there was even further drama when, because of an email glitch, 300 minor hockey teams were mistakenly told that they had received free tickets for the Heritage Classic). Yet, somehow, BC Place was full, causing me, I’ll be honest, to be quite taken aback upon finding my seat a midst the over 50,000 attendees, but secretly pleased.
The set-up in BC Place itself looked quite spectacular, even with the roof closed. The colours and logos of the Vancouver Millionaires and the Ottawa Senators were everywhere. Surrounding the rink was fake snow, which was apparently still quite slippery, as a member of the audience jumped down from his seat onto it and ran the length of the stadium, slipping and tripping over his feet in the final minute of play before security grabbed him. It was good timing, distracting those who saw him from the dying minutes of a 4-2 loss for the Canucks.
The Canucks were up 2-0 just under 12 minutes into the first period with goals from Jason Garrison (on the powerplay) and Zack Kassian, a lead that was spoiled by the end of the first, as the Senators tied up the game with goals from Clarke MacArthur and Erik Karlsson. Cody Ceci had the only goal in the second period, which gave the Senators a 3-2 lead. Colin Greening secured the win with an empty net goal in the final two minutes.
In short, the game was disappointing for the Canucks. They continued to struggle to score, with players like Alex Burrows continuing their point droughts. Daniel Sedin left the game early with an injury, and there was a revitalization of Vancouver’s goalie controversies. Part way through the game chants of “We want Lu” surfaced as Eddie Lack let in his third goal against in what was his third start in a row. The choice to play Lack in net over Roberto Luongo was a controversial move by head coach John Tortorella, who is quickly diminishing any popularity he once had among fans. It was not controversial because of Lack’s skill – there is no doubt that he has been playing well – but more because of Luongo’s history with his team and the apparent disappointment that he faced. Playing a rookie goalie over the face of the franchise who won a gold medal the week prior does seem a little strange.
The event started with a salute to the Canadian women’s hockey team and the national anthem sung by Sarah Mclachlan, followed by mellow performances (that were certainly not as flashy as the performance by KISS at California’s Coors Light Stadium Series game) by Canadian duo Tegan and Sara and Vancouver band Odds. It was a success in many ways. Despite the closed roof, the stadium itself looked great and the seats seemed to be full. But the rivalry between the two teams that the NHL had tried to promote was virtually nonexistent, and the game results have done nothing but create further worries for the Canucks.