NHL Goes Outdoors

Canadians love their outdoor rinks -- the "ODR" as the teenagers call them. There's at least one in every neighbourhood, lovingly built and tended by community volunteers.

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Sometimes whole families get into the act -- going out on a cold, starlit night to clear the snow and flood the rink is part of growing up Canadian.

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Another part of the experience is lacing up outside -- where the skates are cold when you jam your feet into them, and you leave your boots by the side of the rink where they'll get good and cold before it's time to go home.

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On Ottawa's Rideau Canal Skateway, you can "enjoy" the same tactile experience on the world's largest rink -- all part of the joy of skating outdoors.

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The outdoor rinks are where you go to practice your skills when there's nobody else around.

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And the outdoor rink is where you meet your friends.  "See you at the ODR."

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Sometimes games of shinny are allowed on the Rideau Canal Skateway -- last year during Winterlude, the world's largest skateway hosted the world's largest shinny game -- some 300 teams playing in pairs between 8 and 9 a.m.

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But this year, to mark the 150th birthday of Confederation, and the 100th birthday of the National Hockey League (NHL), there were two very special outdoor hockey games played in the nation's capital.

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One was the Sens Alumni Classic held on the Canada150 rink on Parliament Hill.  Captains Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips chose teams from Ottawa Senator stars of the past 25 years. 

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Some of them, including newly-retired Chris Neal and Nashville Predators Captain Mike Fisher, are still very much at the top of their game. Everyone battled hard for bragging rights.

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In the end, those rights went to Team Alfredsson, who after three 25-minute periods walked away with a 12-3 victory.  Alexandre Daigle scored four goals. "You lose the speed but you never lose the hands," said the Sportsnet commentator in the game highlight video.

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The Sens Alumni Classic was played on Parliament Hill in temperatures of minus-13 degrees.  The next night another outdoor hockey game was played a few kilometers up Bank Street at TD Place.  This was not for bragging rights; it was an NHL regular-season match-up between arch rivals the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadians.  This time the temperatures were minus-20!

On the ice, the players kept warm. In the stands, the fans dressed for the weather.  Sens fans were warmed even further by a 3-0 triumph over the Habs.

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It's all part of the joy of skating outdoors.

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