The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers will meet in an NHL Outdoor game at Investors Group Field on Sunday, October 23rd.
The league announced details of the 2016 Heritage Classic at a news conference on Sunday. The weekend will also include a Legends game captained by Dale Hawerchuk and Wayne Gretzky on Saturday, October 22nd. A Banquet featuring all the participants kicks things off on Friday, October 21st.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly made the official announcement. And Jets Chairman and Governor Mark Chipman says it’s a been a long process to get it right.
“After we talked to Dale and Wayne, quite some time ago, and saw their enthusiasm in being a part of it, that really sorta cemented things,” said Chipman.
Exact start times have yet to be finalized, but both games will be played in the afternoon. Chipman says capacity at the stadium will be left the same as it is for Bomber games. That means there will be just over 33,000 tickets available for each game and Chipman says his team is working feverishly on getting that information out to fans as soon as possible.
“It won’t be too far from now. Remember, that this is an NHL game. The actual game on Sunday is their event.”
Chipman says shortly after the NHL has come to town and scaled the building, the team will be able to announce pricing and other details.
Another plus to what is going to be a wildly popular event is the timing. And for that, Chipman credits ice maker Derek King.
“He was at the San Jose game last year. Temperature was about the same as it will be here in October. I didn’t think the league would go for it but they did. You know freezing to death is not novel. Watching a game in January didn’t make a lot of sense.”
Hawerchuk says he might have to turn some Jet alumni away after the overwhelming initial response he’s had. “We might have to have a training camp or something,” said the former Jet 1.0 Captain and Hockey Hall of Famer.
“I’ll be the bad guy in the end because we can’t get everybody in, and anybody who has played for the Winnipeg Jets would love to come back and play.”
The list of those who won’t have to be worried about being left in the cold includes Bobby Hull and his Hot Line team mates Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson along with the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne.
Winnipeg, friendly Manitoba…See you on October 22…..very exited!!!! pic.twitter.com/boxqdojnJZ
— Teemu Selanne (@TeemuSel8nne) March 6, 2016
And the Jets Legends will be wearing a 1.0 version jersey for the game, which Hawerchuk can’t wait to be a part of in renewing the rivalry with Edmonton.
“We were so close to getting on the edge of them sometimes,” recalled the man known as Ducky.
“I loved that challenge, couldn’t wait for it. I can remember games where we would out shoot them 21-4 in the first period and be down 3-0 because Fuhr stood on his head. They just had so many elements to their game.”
And Hawerchuck expects the competitive juices to get flowing in the legends game as well.
“It starts off, how’s it going. All of a sudden it’s tied and there’s 10 minutes left in the last period. The boys start cranking it up and the elbows are higher. All of a sudden there’s another gear in the speed.”
Gretzky says he has rallied some old team mates to see if the Oilers can even their Heritage record at 1-1 after losing 4-3 to Montreal in the very first game back in November of 2003.
“I’ve talked to Mark Messier and Paul Coffey and they’re gonna play,” said the Great One via a live satellite link from his home in Los Angeles. “Blair MacDonald, one of the original captains of the Oilers has agreed to play. Some younger guys like Kelly Buchberger. And of course I couldn’t come to Winnipeg without my wingers Dave Semenko and Jari Kurri.”
The Jets are the 7th and final Canadian based team, and the 22nd in the NHL to play in an outdoor game.