For the love of the game

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Rosa Hwang

A bit of indulgence, please.

I love the Calgary Flames. Always have, always will. Yes, I know I’m impuning my journalistic impartiality with that declaration, but since I work in news, not sports, I can rationalize that breach of professional ethics.

I love the Flames so much, I’m even willing to forgive them for their costumes, er…uniforms, at the Heritage Classic this past weekend. My colleague Francis Silvaggio said their bottoms looked like diapers, while the colouring on top reminded me of ketchup and mustard on whole wheat.

Photo by Todd Korol, Reuters.

That being said, I have a confession to make: While I’ve always been a Flames fan, I haven’t always been so ready to declare my love for the sport. Sure, I enjoy a good hockey game, but if I was more a fan of the sport, I might find myself cheering on other Canadian teams when they advance in the playoffs. I might be able to stomach an Oilers’ victory — rare as that might be — or celebrate the Canucks’ success this season — at least through gritted teeth. I might even resist the temptation to remind Toronto correspondent Mike Drolet of the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup — 1967, by the way — or not take every opportunity to rib Quebec correspondent Mike Armstrong about his Canadiens being on the losing end of the most lopsided result in NHL outdoor hockey history — Habs lost 4-0 to the Flames.

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But less than 24 hours since the puck dropped on the 2011 Heritage Classic, here’s what I’ve learned: I love the sport just as much as I love the Flames. The cynics may dismiss the annual event as a marketing ploy by the NHL — an “orgy of commerce” as one pundit called it — but they’re discounting the very reason for its success. The 41,022 fans who showed up at McMahon Stadium in Calgary didn’t brave the frigid weather for hours just to catch a hockey game. The view of the ice from the lower levels wasn’t that great. From the upper levels, unless you were watching through binoculars, it was hard to even make out who had puck possession. If hockey was strictly about the players or the league, then it might not make sense to force two teams, vying for a coveted playoff spot, to play out in the cold, on a spotty ice surface, under less-than-ideal lighting. In fact, the hype and hoopla are a major disruption to the teams’ routines.

The game has to mean more than just points and standings.

Those fans showed up to be a part of something we all yearn for — a sense of community, a sense of pride, a sense of history. There is something undeniably nostalgic about dressing up in winter layers, side-by-side with our hockey brethren, withstanding the bitter winds and frigid temperatures — some with the help of liquid courage — cheering on our individual teams, but also cheering on our national game. It’s the kind of feeling you don’t get at an NHL all-star game or even the Stanley Cup playoffs. One British man we met told us he couldn’t find a similar experience across the pond, so he traveled more than 7,000 kilometres to find it in Calgary.

Global National correspondent Francis Silvaggio talks to a die-hard Flames fan who flew all the way from the U.K. for the Heritage Classic!

He wasn’t disappointed in his first Heritage Classic and neither was I.

Rosa is Global National’s senior producer, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @RosaHwangTV.

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