The NHL Heritage Classic is a series of outdoor games played in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Three games have been played in the series with a fourth scheduled for the 2016–17 NHL season in Winnipeg.
To date, the match-ups have been exclusively between Canadian teams and the event serves as a counterpart to the Winter Classic.
The inaugural Heritage Classic, hosted by Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003, was the first outdoor regular season game in NHL history and its success served as the precursor to outdoor hockey games played around the world. The second, hosted by Calgary in 2011, set sponsorship and revenue records.
The third was hosted in Vancouver's BC Place stadium in 2014. The fourth game will be hosted by Winnipeg at the Investors Group Field in October of 2016.
History[edit | edit source]
The first Heritage Classic was played in 2003 and hosted by the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers had suggested the idea of hosting an outdoor game as early as the mid 1980s, but the genesis of the 2003 event was the "Cold War" outdoor game played two years prior between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
The first regular season outdoor game in NHL history, it was held at Commonwealth Stadium between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens.
Demand for tickets to the game was unprecedented in the history of Edmonton sports events.
After sales to Edmonton's season ticket holders and league sponsors, the Oilers held a lottery for the remaining 7,000 seats that awarded 1,750 persons the opportunity to purchase four tickets each. The team received over 750,000 entries from around the world.
The game attracted a crowd of 57,167 that set an NHL single-game attendance record that more than doubled the previous mark.
The event featured an alumni game between past greats of the Canadiens and Oilers, including Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur. The game itself was played at a temperature of −19 °C (−2 °F); the Canadiens defeated the Oilers by a score of 4–3.
The success of the Heritage Classic led to the 2008 NHL Winter Classic, which was played in Buffalo between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.
A new league record crowd of 71,217 watched the Penguins defeat the Sabres in a game that quickly became the NHL's showcase event.
The Winter Classic became an annual event but focused on American teams.
Faced with increasing criticism at the lack of Canadian participation in the Winter Classic, the NHL revived the Heritage Classic in 2011 and pitted the Canadiens against the host Calgary Flames.
It marked the first time the NHL held two outdoor games in the same season, a decision that some commentators (including ESPN's Scott Burnside) argued would dilute the spectacle of the Winter Classic.
Like the Edmonton game, the 2011 Heritage Classic was a success, as the Flames defeated Montreal 4–0 in front of 41,022 fans at McMahon Stadium.
The game achieved high television ratings in both Canada and the United States and (due to record sponsorship), it grossed the highest revenue for a single event in NHL history.
The third Heritage Classic was played at BC Place in Vancouver in 2014 between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. It was part of a six-game outdoor set during the 2013–14 NHL season that included the 2014 Winter Classic and the four-game Stadium Series.
The Winnipeg Jets announced that they had reached an agreement with the NHL to host a fourth Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field, the home of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, which they hoped to hold during the team's fifth anniversary in 2015–16.
However, a disagreement occurred between the NHL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the game's exact date: the league wanted it held in December 2015 while the football team became concerned that this date was too close to the 103rd Grey Cup being held at the stadium on November 29th.
In January of 2015, the Jets announced that they could not reach an agreement to finalize a date for the Heritage Classic during the 2015-16 season and that they were now looking for a new date during the 2016-2017 season.
On March 6, 2016, the NHL officially announced that the Jets will host the Oilers in the 2016 Heritage Classic during the 2016–17 NHL season.
Heritage Classic Games[edit | edit source]
Bolded teams denote winners
|Year||Season||Date||City||Stadium||Away Team||Score||Home Team||Attendance||Ref|
|2003||2003–04||November 22||Edmonton, Alberta||Commonwealth Stadium||Montreal Canadiens||4–3||Edmonton Oilers||57,167|
|2011||2010–11||February 20||Calgary, Alberta||McMahon Stadium||Montreal Canadiens||0–4||Calgary Flames||41,022|
|2014||2013–14||March 2||Vancouver, British Columbia||BC Place||Ottawa Senators||4–2||Vancouver Canucks||54,194|
|2016||2016–17||October 23||Winnipeg, Manitoba||Investors Group Field||Edmonton Oilers||Winnipeg Jets|