This past weekend, we rounded up a crew of Nation citizens, packed our bags, and were lucky enough to have our friends at AMA Travel fly us out to Winnipeg for the first outdoor game the Oilers have played since 2003. As you would expect, we partied hard, screamed our faces off, annoyed Jets fans, and turned the Pint Winnipeg into our headquarters for the weekend. Here’s a quick recap of the weekend, being at the game, and all things Nation invasion.
THE OLD TIMERS GAME
One of the things I was most excited about was seeing the old timers game on Saturday afternoon. The Oilers have such a storied history that seeing all of those guys lace them up at the same time, and have fun doing it, was a pleasure to watch. Gretzky, Messier, Glenn Anderson, Tikkanen, Smytty… the list went on and on and I wanted to soak in every minute. Even though the Oilers lost the alumni game, it was still amazing to see all of those greats having fun on the ice.
Speaking of the alumni game, I was thinking back and I don’t think I was ever able to see Wayne Gretzky skate live and this might have been one of my last chances to do so. Now, I’m not saying that seeing Gretzky play in an alumni game was even close to what it must have been like to see him back in his heyday, but I was still able to see the man live in the flesh and that’s what mattered for me. Seeing Gretzky mometarily set up in his office behind the net made me jealous of all of you that were able to watch him break records, hearts, and goalie confidence back in the 80s. He may not have flown around the ice like he once did, but my admiration for the man didn’t diminish one bit. Seeing Gretzky will always be magic.
As an added bonus, I randomly ran into Glenn Anderson on the concourse and was able to shake the man’s hand. He was very generous with his time and took a minute to speak or take a picture with anyone that asked him. What a champion. But I wasn’t the only Nation staffer to meet old Oilers as the Squire and Adam from sales took a picture with two former captains (below). Personally, I think it was Adam’s ridiculous duster that brought the boys to the yard, but maybe it’s just me.
THE REAL GAME
After a two-hour sun delay (and several hundred dollars worth of beer), the real game was set to go and the Oilers had a chance to ruin a lot of people’s weekend. Winnipeg’s alumni had taken the first game, and the Jets fans around us were feeling pretty confident that they were going to sweep the weekend. Personally, I’ve been an Oilers fan for my whole life so I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Oilers had dropped another nationally televised turd, but these ain’t last year’s Oilers. Our boys in blue had other plans, and a scorching second period put the visitors up by three goals and sent Edmonton fans into hysterics.
In our section, Chris the Intern and I had spent the two-hour sun delay spending all of my money on beers so when the game finally started we were already greased and in the mood for trash talking. After the second period outburst which saw the Oilers score three goals, we had all the ammunition we needed for the Nation section to chirp any Jets fans within earshot. To their credit, most of the Jets fans around us had a decent sense of humour about it, but you know that our barbs were cutting them to the core and I loved every minute of it. Losing to the Oilers in a nationally televised outdoor game had to hurt, and I loved it.
If there was a complaint it would be that the concourses at the IGF were packed Rexall Place tight, and moving around the place could take a minute but that was nothing compared to the opportunity of being there. Tiny concourse aside, the organizers and staff made the place look beautiful and were always available to help if we needed anything. They created a welcoming environment and kept most people happy despite the two-hour delay. On a few occasions, I found myself looking around at the 35,000 fans, the ice, the displays, and being completely blown away. This was my first ever outdoor game, and it did not disappoint.
THEIR PINT WAS OUR PINT
As per Nation tradition, we landed in Winnipeg and immediately planted our flag (and Violent Gentlemen’s for that matter) down at the Pint Winnipeg. Throughout the weekend, the Pint was overrun with Oilers fans and it was absolutely beautiful to see. Not only was our crew packing the place, Oilers fans from around the Peg found out that we were there and wanted to get in the mix. Even though we were guests in another province, filling the Pint Winnipeg with Oilers fans made the place feel like home.
After the Oilers beat the Jets on Sunday, the Pint was slammed with Oilers fans from around the country and we took advantage of the numbers by getting countless chants going in the bar. As you can see from the video above, our chants weren’t limited to the staples like “Let’s-Go Oil-ers *clap clap clapclapclap*” or the always popular “Calgary Sucks” but we were even shouting out deserved heroes like Mark Letestu.
For many of us, we had never been to the Peg before and so we weren’t really sure what to expect. Thanks to our friends at Travel Manitoba and Tourism Winnipeg we got to see some pretty awesome stuff around Winnipeg that we may not have known about otherwise. They hooked us up with an itinerary that kept us busy all weekend long, and we left feeling good about the city that welcomed us with open arms. Though I had never been to Winnipeg before, I can tell you that it was a really cool little city and the people were welcoming, friendly and willing to help.
Big thanks to Travel Manitoba and Tourism Winnipeg for showing us around Winnipeg. It was a great weekend, and it’s definitely a place that should be on your travel list.
One thing that I can’t mention enough is how this weekend wouldn’t have been the same without the great people that we met along the way. From the people that won trips courtesy of AMA Travel, to those that drove in from Edmonton we want to thank everyone that swung by to say hello, or pick up some fresh threads at the NationGear pop-up store. You guys made the weekend better than great, and it was really cool to meet so many Nation readers and put some faces to Twitter handles. Who knows when the next Nation road trip will happen, but, if it’s anything like this last one, you’re going to want to be a part of it.
Thanks to all of our sponsors, partners, readers, and friends for making the Heritage Classic weekend one that I’ll remember forever. Thanks, Nation. We couldn’t have done it without you.