The stage is set and now all that is needed is for Mother Nature to co-operate.
The inaugural Flaman’s Outdoor Classic will be held on Saturday at the Crescent Heights Arena with hockey games starting at 10 a.m. and continuing all day on the outdoor facility.
One of the organizers, Prince Albert A&W Bear’s manager Bruce Vance, says everything is in place for fans and players to have a memorable experience.
“I’ve planned a lot of events, but this one has a lot of moving parts,” admitted Vance earlier in the week. “So many people have worked very hard on this. The Mintos and Bears people and especially the people at Crescent Heights; we have had a lot of support from Flaman’s as well.”
Vance got the idea for the event a couple of years ago when the Crescent Heights Community Club relocated its outdoor rink and made it a regulation size facility. Being the manager of the Bears, a Midget AAA girl’s hockey team, he knew they would be involved and when he asked the Mintos, a Midget AAA boy’s club, if they were interested in joining forces on the project, things began to take shape.
A pair of Saskatoon clubs were then asked if they would want to have a league game used during the event and Vance says both the Stars from the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League and the Blazers from the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League agreed with the concept.
“There were certainly some meetings held to discuss it, but I don’t think it was very difficult at all,” notes Vance on the main participants coming to terms on the idea of playing a game outdoors.
The logistics of getting the facility together for Saturday has taken more time. There were new gates that had to be installed at the rink, Mintos’ and Bears’ logos were painted onto the ice, bleachers were hauled in from Prime Ministers’ Park, tents were set up around the player’s boxes along with portable heaters, bathroom facilities were carted in along with lights and a time clock.
Volunteers have been recruited by the Crescent Heights Community Club to have food services available all day and a beer gardens will also be on site. Other people have also signed on to help with parking and collecting admissions so according to Vance, all that is needed is for a lot of fans to enjoy the great day of hockey.
“I’ve been watching the forecast for the last couple of weeks and it looks like -19 for Saturday,” says Vance. “It will take a blizzard or -40 for us not to play.”
“Tickets have been going pretty good, but like everything, everyone is waiting for the last minute,” added Vance. “It has been a very good response, but for $15, you get to watch hockey from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. What more can you ask for? Dress up warm and come and enjoy the day.”
The first game begins at 10 a.m. with a pair of atom division teams taking to the ice. Local songwriter and entertainer Donny Parenteau will sing the national anthem at noon prior to the game between the A&W Bears and Saskatoon Stars with another atom division contest set to begin at 2:30 p.m.
The final game of the day will be the Mintos against the Blazers beginning at 4:30 p.m. with Carole Ring performing the national anthem. The Mintos will be wearing replica jerseys of the 1952 edition of the club which competed in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and Prince Albert Raider stars Mark McNeill and Leon Draisaitl will drop the puck for the ceremonial opening face-off.
Everything is in place and the excitement is growing. It should be a day to remember and with the NHL having been forced to cancel its version of the mid-winter classic due to the recently resolved labour dispute, this is the only one to be held this year. And, it will be a lot better with the stands full.