It is part of our national character that about the time we are prodded into going outside in winter we begin heckling those who remain indoors.
And so the Toronto Marlies, Hamilton Bulldogs and 20,655 people who visited Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, many for the first time, have a message.
The AHL’s Outdoor Classic was just that; an event positioned somewhere between novelty act and intense Canadiana. That the Marlies beat the Bulldogs 7-2 was nice for the visitors but really, you just had to be there.
“That was awesome,” said Marlie winger Greg Scott, a two-goal man on the day. “The crowd was great. The environment and the whole experience Hamilton put on was incredible. I wish I could do this again tomorrow.”
With sunny skies, little wind and temperatures within range of freezing, the players adapted quickly to the environment. The game had to be stopped a handful of times for repairs to the surface and while the ice was snowy for the last half of the periods, conditions were nigh onto perfect.
There were nearly as many spectators on Friday night when the Habs and Leafs alumni played. Midway through, former Canadian Karl Dykhuis jumped onto the stage that adjoined the ice surface and led the place in a chorus of Sweet Caroline. The Habs and Leafs turned to face Dykhuis, pushed their arms skyward and swayed with everyone else. It began to gently snow and for everyone present an outdoor rink in the middle of Hamilton was the best place to be in the world.
It wasn’t too bad Saturday either. Dykhuis delivered an encore during a TV timeout. After spotting Hamilton a goal just 27 seconds into the game, the Marlies got an uninterrupted string of goals from Mike Zigomanis, Scott, Drew Paris and Marcel Mueller. Joe Colborne with only his third goal in 18 games, Nicolas Deschamps and Scott again rounded out the scoring.
“We spotted them one but it’s no different than when you’re a little kid playing on the pond,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. ‘You guys got the first one, fine. Let’s play to five.’”
“This was just great,” said former Leaf Derek King, a Hamilton native and a Marlies assistant. “The Neil Diamond song, the crowd going crazy, the alumni game, this game and then the Leafs and the Canadiens playing Saturday night. It’s been a great weekend and Hamilton has done a great job with this.”
“It was gun to watch our guys be so excited before the game,” Eakins said. “They were like little kids, they were so amped up. Once they saw the building was full it made it a really special experience.”
Ben Scrivens pocketed the win as he surrendered two goals on 21 shots.
For Scott, the game was more or less a first.
“I’m from Victoria. Back in the day I played on a frozen cornfield a couple of times but it weren’t like being a Prairie or an Ontario boy.”
Now he knows what he was missing.