Bundle up Winnipeg. The NHL is bringing an outdoor game to the Manitoba capital. In a report courtesy of Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, the Jets reached an agreement with the NHL to host the Heritage Classic, preferably in 2016. The game will be played at Investors Group Field, the new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Jets chairman Mark Chipman announced it to the Free Press during the NHL’s board of governors meetings in Pebble Beach, California this past week.
“The NHL has confirmed to me they are going to do an outdoor game in Winnipeg. I don’t have a specific date to announce but it would be our preference that we do it in the 2015-16 season. The league’s commitment to doing an outdoor game in our city is fantastic. It’s something we’ve been talking about for some time and it’s part of a significant strategy to do outdoor games and it will be great to be part of it. We just have to firm up some details and hopefully we’ll have a date to announce very soon.”
It is most likely that the game will be held in the month of March. That is the best chance for decent weather for a game like this to be held here. As I am writing this, it is -22 degrees with the windchill making if feel like it’s -31 degrees. That’s cold even by Winnipeg standards.
March makes the most sense, because of weather and that football season is long over by then. The Bombers will play games in October for sure. November seems like a stretch, if the Bombers recent trend of losing continues. While March has seen its share of cold and blustery days, it also has seen warm weather as well. Back in 2012, Winnipeg were breaking records for warm weather in March that had lasted for over half a century. So it could be very interesting either way weather wise.
Investors Group Field holds a capacity of 33,422 with the capability of expanding to 41,000 during big events. It is almost a certainty that they will use the 41,000 limit to maximize revenues.
Fans have already speculated on possible opponents for the Heritage Classic. Some have suggested the Minnesota Wild, due to being a geographical rival and it would lure Minnesota fans to Winnipeg for the game.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been mentioned due to Winnipeg’s Jonathan Toews being the captain of the current Stanley Cup champions. If it is Chicago, the Jets could also invite Bobby Hull to the game and honour him in front of a huge crowd. Since Hull has obvious ties to both cities, it would be fitting to pay tribute to him in that setting.
Both Alberta teams, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have been mentioned. They were both huge rivals of the Jets version 1.o back in the 1980s. An oldtimers games would be special for fans like myself who remember the 1980s. It could also be a tribute to hockey on the prairies. There is nothing like outdoor hockey on the Prairies during the middle of winter. Just about everyone who lives in Western Canada knows what I’m talking about.
The most intriguing opponent might be the Phoenix Coyotes. The old Jets versus the new Jets outdoors would be fascinating. This could be the game where the Jets version 2.0 break out the throwback jerseys of yesteryear. It could be a tribute game to the old Jets as well. Bring back the likes of Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Keith Tkachuk and Dave Ellett to give them a proper tribute to days gone by. It would be terrific for older fans like myself who remember those days, but it would be great for younger fans as well to learn a little bit about the history of the NHL in Winnipeg.
With that said, no matter who is the opponent that day, it will be a memorable day in Winnipeg. The city will fully embrace this game and it will be one of the highlights of the franchise.
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