Making memories at the Heritage Classic
By baggedmilk28 days ago
Having gone to the 2016 Heritage Classic in Winnipeg, I had an idea of what to expect from an outdoor NHL game, which made me incredibly excited for this weekend.
In the days and weeks leading up to the Heritage Classic, there were so many great stories going around about the 2003 edition that kicked off the whole tradition and proved once again that Edmontonians are out of their minds when it comes to the Oilers. I remember watching the game on TV and thinking everyone was nuts for sitting in those temperatures for hours on end to watch a game the Oilers ultimately lost. On Friday’s episode of Oilersnation Radio, I asked Rick about what it was like to be at the OG Heritage Classic, and the first thing that came to his mind was, “I’m still cold.”
In 2016, we took the long bus ride to Winnipeg for the fourth-ever Heritage Classic when the Oilers shut out the Jets 3-0 at IG Field. The game started two hours late because of a sun delay — there was nothing to do that whole time but drink and eat — but ultimately resulted in our beloved Oilers reigning supreme. I still remember chanting Mark Letestu’s name at the bar for the post-win celebration. It was electric. Oilers fans always travel well, and on that night, in that city, we turned it up. As far as the first taste of an outdoor game goes, that one was pretty special, and I knew it was only a matter of time before Edmonton got another chance to host.
I was excited to take my dad to the game in our backyard this time. I’ve been lucky enough to have some really cool Oilers experiences over the last few years, so bringing my old man to the Heritage Classic for his first time at an outdoor game just had to happen. I mean, hell, he’s the reason I love this team in the first place. When I was a kid, my dad used to enter ticket raffles at his office and on the odd occasion that he won, we’d make the trip to Skyreach Centre and watch the Oilers do their thing. For a young hockey fan like myself, those unexpected trips to the rink were like magic.
Back then, you could walk downstairs at the rink and stand outside Edmonton’s dressing room. Depending on their mood (likely the result), players would stop at the barricade for a minute and sign whatever you had. Once such time, Bill Ranford stopped to sign my game day program, and he probably spent 10 seconds talking to me about the game. That was huge. The fact that one of my heroes took even a moment to speak to six-year-old Baggedmilk and flick me an autograph was huge and ultimately a big part of why I’m an Oilers fan today. On Sunday, I wanted to return the favour and bring my dad to something unique that he’s never experienced before.
First up in our day was a spirited round of trying to figure out what the hell was going on with our hockey team. Yet, despite the apparent issues and obvious lack of results, my old man is an eternal optimist and believes the Oilers have what it takes to turn things around. Powered by his enthusiasm, we made our way to Greta for the pre-game festivities and to jump on the bus to the game with the rest of the Nation crew. As expected, the vibes were excellent, as everyone was layered up and excited for what was to come. Regardless of the Oilers’ record, the fanbase was fired up and ready to roll.
Pulling up to Commonwealth Stadium, I wanted to soak up the scene and try to take in everything happening around us. From the fan zone outside to the stadium itself, there were people everywhere, and it was fun to see the excitement on everyone’s faces about what was to come. Regardless of the records on either side of the ice, the fans were pumped, and ready to party, and I was hopeful that would translate to an exciting match on the ice. What I didn’t necessarily expect, however, was that the boys would hit the ice with guns blazing and take a stranglehold on the game before the Flames were even able to respond.
From my seat in section PP, I had a pretty spectacular view of everything happening at ice level, so I kept cranking my head back and forth to keep myself up to date. My dad, however, was saying the most “dad” things ever as he kept pointing out who he felt was going to get cold when the temperatures started to fall. Needless to say, we were quite the pair as I was pointing out things like McDavid being on the ice for warmup whereas he was concerning himself with anyone that was only wearing a hoodie and hat. We were in seats right beside each other, but our perspective on what was happening could not have been more different and I couldn’t have loved it more.
Back to the game, the Oilers were all over the Flames in all three zones, and it was the kind of effort and relentlessness that we’ve been begging for through the first seven contests. Not only were they getting goals from players not named Connor and Leon, but they were happening at even strength rather than everything always getting done on the power play. Since we haven’t seen results like that all that much so far, getting five goals from the support cast was a fantastic result and something worth celebrating. I don’t know what kind of sacrifices need to get made to ensure this continues, but I am absolutely volunteering as a tribute to make sure it happens.
By the time Nickelback hit the stage during the second intermission, I don’t think the vibes could have been any better. The Oilers well in control of that hockey game, and every fan in blue and orange around me was having the time of their lives. Yeah, it also helped that Flames fans that were sprinkled among us looked like they just stepped on their childhood hamster, but I digress. The most important part was that we were having fun, and that my goal of taking my old man to see a win was nearly complete. It was pretty much the perfect day.
Once the final buzzer sounded and the Oilers closed out their 5-2 win, my dad and I jumped on the bus back to Greta to kick off the post-win celebration. Fortunately, the celebration didn’t last as long as it could have since I had to write this morning’s Three Key Things article. Otherwise, I could have looked like the rest of the Nation squad that stuck it out until it was time to close the bar down. Then again, when your favourite hockey team beats their provincial rival in one of the biggest spectacles of the the year, it’s hard not to party like we’re ringing in the Willennium. All-in-all, it was a fantastic day of hockey and I couldn’t have been more excited to bring my dad along with me for the ride.
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