Now players with the Calgary Hitmen, Wilson and Kosterman will take to the outdoor ice once again, this time during the first-ever outdoor Western Hockey League game in Canada to be held at McMahon Stadium on Feb. 21, 2011.
“It’s just a step back in history when everyone used to play outside using wooden sticks,” said Wilson, who recalled spending countless hours playing hockey on rinks his dad made each winter on MacKenzie Lake.
During a press conference at the Elboya Heights Community Centre outdoor rink on Thursday afternoon, Wilson donned a special commemorative jersey that the Hitmen will wear at the outdoor game. The jersey featured striping inspired by the 1926 Calgary Canadiens, the first Calgary franchise to win a Memorial Cup, as well as the retro grey and pink Hitmen logo.
“It’s nice to pay tribute to that 1926 team and play outdoors again and get back in the spirit of hockey,” Wilson said.
Having spent many hours playing hockey on the frozen waters of Lake Bonavista, Kosterman is looking forward to playing on the specially constructed rink at McMahon Stadium in two months time.
“When we first step on the ice, we’ll take a good look around,” said the second-year Hitmen defenceman. “It’s kind of surreal. You feel like a kid again to go and play outdoors. Who wouldn’t be excited about playing outdoors at McMahon? It’s just going to be awesome.”
At the press conference, Pats forward Garrett Mitchell wore the special jersey that Regina players will don during the event. It’s the same blue-and-cream coloured design as the ones the Pats wore in the mid ’50s when Regina was the junior affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.
“There’s great history behind the jerseys on both teams,” said Mitchell, who also recalls playing a lot of outdoor hockey growing up in his native Regina. “What a better spot to wear these jerseys. It’ll be a great opportunity for us.”
Teammate Myles Bell, who grew up in Redwood Meadows and played his minor hockey in Calgary, said the event will bring the players back to their younger years.
“It’ll be like playing hockey when you’re younger, just going out there and having a good time,” he said. “We’ll put on a good show”.
Tickets to the Family Day event will go on sale at all Ticketmaster locations on Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. with two price points of $15 and $12.
“We’re really making it very family affordable,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison. “We want as many kids and their parents to be in the stands to experience this game. It’s a very unique experience for the fans as much as it is for the players. “We’re hoping people will come out and make it a fun day.”
Ken King, who serves as president and governor for both the Calgary Flames and Calgary Hitmen, helped to organize the event to be held a day after the Flames host the Canadiens in the Heritage Classic at McMahon.
“It’s fun today to just take a little bit of a taste, little bit of a sample of what it might be like and what it used to be like,” said King, while Wilson and Mitchell were playing a pick-up game of hockey with kids on the outdoor ice. “It captures the essence and the spirit of the game. The game has come a long way from the outdoor frozen ponds, but we’re going to go back for a piece of history in February on that long weekend. I think it’s going to be wonderful.”
Both Hitmen general manager Kelly Kisio and Pats president and governor Brent Parker said the event will be a great opportunity for the players on the respective squads.
“We look forward to an outstanding event, a once-in-a-lifetime thing for most everybody who’s going to be involved,” Kisio said. “We look forward to the drop of the puck.”
“It’ll be just such a unique experience,” Parker added. “It’s going to be something that these kids will cherish forever. It’s something that will be tremendous for the league and it’s going to be tremendous for both organizations involved.”