CALGARY – The mercury hovered around 18 degrees below zero Celsius on Saturday morning as the Canadiens took to the ice for their final practice ahead of the Heritage Classic. The temperatures were frigid, breaths were visible but there was no putting a damper on anyone’s mood.
“It was fun,” said Michael Cammalleri, expected to return to the Habs lineup on Sunday. “The ice was really good (but) it was a little chilly out there; I think there was some getting used to it. There were gloves we could wear under our gloves, different facial protections you could wear if you want.
“I think everyone was playing with different ideas and trying to see what they felt would get them at the right temperature and most comfortable to play.”
Some donned football-like ski masks while others opted for the minimum.
“This is what you enjoy, right? You don’t even want to bundle up too much; you want to feel the cold to get the full grasp of it,” P.K. Subban pointed out. “You don’t know when you’re going to have an opportunity to play outdoors. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to play hockey outside and I just want to enjoy this experience as much as I can.”
Added Scott Gomez: “You warm up pretty quick out there. It definitely reminds you of being a little kid, that’s for sure – skating outdoors and you’re cold for like a second and then you’re fine.”
An Alaska native of Mexican descent, Gomez had planned to limit his extra undergarments and he stuck to his word for practice. He admitted he was “kind of proud” of himself for sticking to his guns.
But while he braved the unfriendly temperature, he was less impressed with a pair of prairie teammates.
“I look at some of my Canadian friends out there and they were the ones that were wrapped up the most. Ryan White should be embarrassed about himself. He’s from Brandon (Manitoba). When he got on the ice I couldn’t believe how much stuff he had on.” Gomez quipped.
“Travis Moen, all his farmer stories, I don’t know what to believe anymore. That guy was wrapped up more than anyone.”
Almost all had eye black to help the glare of the bright sun in the clear blue sky. Carey Price easily had the most of anyone while James Wisniewski, also expected to return on Sunday, was limited to eye black just under his right eye, sporting a shiner and some hefty stitches on the left side.
While the ski masks helped the guys stay covered and comfortable, it also required a bit of adjustment.
“When you’re wearing a visor, the perspiration kind of goes up into your visor and it freezes on the inside of it so then you have a layer of ice on the inside of your visor that you obviously can’t see through,” Cammalleri noted.
The Canadiens all admitted to excitement for Sunday’s contest but they were all well aware of the importance of the matchup just the same.
“We haven’t really played well on the road but this is our first outdoor road game, so were 0-0 so we’re pretty pumped for that,” said Gomez. “It’s definitely something we’ve talked about but hopefully we start a trend here where we win here and then we can ask Vancouver if we can play in their stadium outside.”
In all seriousness, though, Gomez affirmed that “it’s a great weekend for hockey and a great weekend for Calgary and all that but these are two teams that really need the two points.”
Photo gallery: Habs practice outdoors
Video: Habs skate around before practice
Click “Subscribe” at the top of the page to be notified of new articles. You can also follow on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.