Recapping the Heritage Classic Weekend

IGF

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. 

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THE REAL GAME

This will do. #NationGoesToWpg

A photo posted by baggedmilk (@himynameisbaggedmilk) on


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

#MARKLETESTU @officialoilersnation @himynameisbaggedmilk @thenationchris @wanyegretz @thesquir3

A video posted by Rick W (@rpw1832) on


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. 

THE SIGHTS

WinnipegSights

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.  

THE WRAP

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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. 

  • Explicit

    Wish I would’ve bucked up and went! I had a big smile on my face watching Smytty skate with Gretz from the couch, would’ve been way cooler to be there!

  • Serious Gord

    Interesting bit of history regarding Winnipeg is that it was looking like it was going to be rival of Chicago in the early 1900s until a major event thousands of miles away kneecapped its growth for over forty years and from which it never recovered its former swagger:

    The Panama Canal opened.

  • OilCan2

    Wow. What a lot of fun. That’s what being a fan is all about.

    Being there. Road Trip. Cheering. Partying.

    I love it that there were no stats quoted in the write up.

  • D

    It was a great weekend and the people of Winnipeg are first class all the way.

    Personally, knowing that this might be Gretzky’s final game for real, I had to go see him in person to say farewell. I was at his last Oilers game in 1988, and obviously didn’t know at the time that he would be gone a few months later. This weekend brought a lot of closure (in a good way).

  • Mitch92

    Leaf nation is losing its collective mind tonight! Stamkos has scored two first period goals for the Lightning who are up 3-0, now halfway through the second.

    • Serious Gord

      Leaf goalie was gawdawful.

      They actually outshot the lightning 43-24 and both nylander and Matthews got a goal and an assist. Lots of hope in leaf land.

  • O.C.

    The shine is off the outdoor game. It’s too bad. I endured and loved every minute of the original one.

    There have been ideas like fewer games, or in unique locales like in the mountains on Lake Louise perhaps. Heck, why not on the deck of an aircraft carrier while at sea?

    I have a different opinion. The shine is off a bit because really, other than your team, how often do you go out of your way to watch two other teams? Maybe 3 or 4 other teams MIGHT cause you to book off 2 1/2 hours, as long as it’s a player or matchup worth watching.

    The Sid / OV matchup can only be played so many times, but it still is worth watching as those teams have changed personnel. The NHL Brass can’t have that game occur every year though.

    Other teams deserve the revenue opportunity er ability to showcase their teams. 7 teams still have not participated in this event.

    The NHL needs stop making this a limited marketing event. That ship has sailed. They can still have a marquee matchup on New Year’s Day.

    I suggest they run 15 (actually 16 with Vegas coming online) of these events every year. Every team participates every year. Revenues from ticket sales are pooled and shared.

    Radical. Less “Barnum & Bailey”. Cement this as “The roots of the game began outdoors.”

    The options on locations are endless.

  • bwar

    Thanks for the birthday drinks Baggedmilk. It was an awesome weekend in the peg. Nice to meet some other people from the nation and to watch the Oilers keep their fantastic start to the season in tact.