This Saturday, the NHL will take to the outdoors for the first time in it’s 86 year history at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton when the Oilers host the Montreal Canadiens. Approximetely 52,500 fans are expected to sit in sub-zero temperatures watching hockey at its finest. First up it’s the MegaStars game at 4:30 eastern, featuring among others, Wayne Gretzky, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier and Larry Robinson. After this takes place the current NHLers face-off in the first ever outdoor NHL game.
There are a few reasons this game will be something special. For one, who doesn’t want to see Wayne and the boys take on Lafleur and the gang in an epic old-time hockey battle? It’s not every day you get the chance to see the best hockey player who ever lived lace up the skates again. Although the Habs will be in tough, their MegaStar players are much older than the Oilers, the game promises to be as legendary as a Marty McSorley high stick, who coincidentally will be on the Oilers alumni team.
The next reason is the simple fact that over 50,000 fans will be witnessing this event live, shattering the previous NHL record. The energy at Commonwealth will be electric. The fans will be freezing, screaming and chanting as they see two great Canadian hockey franchises go at it. I can’t think of any situation that would make one feel more pride for this great country. If you were to describe Canada in two words, I think most would choose Hockey and Cold, or something similar to that. The outdoor game will give us all a chance to observe hockey the way it was designed to be played, outdoors. Hockey wasn’t designed to be played in Phoenix, Arizona or in Tampa, Florida. It was designed to be played in a setting much like the one we will witness Saturday night. In an era where contracts and collective bargaining agreements are talked about as much as the actual game itself, it will be nice for hockey to get back to it’s roots, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.
Each and every player involved in this event will be certain to bring their respective “A” game. Each club will certainly want to go down in history as the first team to win an NHL game outdoors. In a long 82 game schedule we, as fans, often see a game that is sloppily played and where there is a visible lack of effort by several players. This will certainly not be the case in the Heritage Classic, because even the laziest of players will give it their all this Saturday.
So as the much anticipated Outdoor game draws nearer by the hour, do yourself a favour and just sit back and enjoy it. It’s not every day you get to see some of the legends of the past, and the current NHL talent go at it, and in an outdoor game to boot. The NHL may not be as exciting as it used to be when Gretzky was scoring 92 goals and the Habs were racking up 132 points in the regular season, however, no matter how exciting the hockey aspect of the Heritage Classic turns out to be, it will still be considered, just as it’s name suggests, a classic.