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Large contingent of Edmonton Oilers alumni expected for 2023 Heritage Classic

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Photo credit:Screengrab/Edmonton Oilers
Zach Laing
5 months ago
After the first rendition of the Heritage Classic 20 years ago saw temperatures dip near 30 below while players were on the ice, then Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said he hoped the next one would happen in October.
Now, 20 years later, Lowe’s wish has come true.
“We were fortunate in ’03 being the old guys that played ahead of the real game,” he said, joking with a contingent of reporters at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday. “It was a surreal feeling. Many of us hadn’t played an NHL game for a number of years.
“I believe it was around minus-25, or minus-27, whatever it was — we had planned for the historical highs and lows for that day in history, and it was plus-15 and minus-30. Unfortunately, we weren’t a little more in the middle.”
The hope at the time was that Edmonton would soon be able to host another, given the success of the regular game between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens and the one featuring alums from both organizations.
And though Lowe said league commissioner Gary Bettman said at the beginning of the next board of governors following the event that it was “the single-most important event in his time as commissioner,” the Oilers hadn’t seen one since.
Thirty-seven outdoor events later, excitement is building for what will surely be a special event.
“We’ve got our Hall of Fame game against the New York Rangers on the Thursday (before the Heritage Classic),” said Stu Ballantyne, chief operating officer of Rogers Place and the ICE District. “It’s going to be an amazing week.
“We’ve been talking about having an outdoor game here in Edmonton for a long time, and to have it on the 20th anniversary is just amazing. It’s a great way to recognize the hockey fans of Edmonton that drove the organization to think of this back in 2003.”
That Hall of Fame game, where Edmontonians will see Charlie Huddy and Doug Weight added to the organizations’ ring of honour, will bring a large contingent of former players to town. Many of whom, Lowe said, will be around for the Heritage Classic days later.
“A lot of our alumni are coming in, a lot of guys we haven’t seen for a while,” he said. “It’s hard to accomodate everybody, but we’ve got a lot of great names coming in for both events.”
Ticket sales, Ballantyne said, are “going really, really well,” and that late releases of tickets are expected. When it comes to the fact the Oilers are taking on the Flames, a contingent of fans of the red and white will make their way north for the game.
“Yes, yes, we’re hospitable,” he laughed. “We’re Albertans and it’s a Battle of Alberta, so you’ve got to have fans from both teams cheering it on.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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