he Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club has announced further details of its 25th Anniversary season, which will include the first ever NHL regular season game played outdoors. The game, to be titled “The Heritage Classic”, will be the centerpiece of a year-long celebration commemorating the Oilers 25 seasons in the NHL, and will take place on Saturday, November 22, 2003, at Commonwealth Stadium. The date of November 22 is significant, as it also marks the 86th Anniversary of the National Hockey League, which was formed in Montreal on that day in 1917.
The Heritage Classic will feature two of Canada’s premiere “heritage” teams – the Edmonton Oilers with five Stanley Cup Championships, and the Montreal Canadiens with 24 Stanley Cup Championships, in a regular season match-up in the 50,000 seat facility. A festival atmosphere will be created around the game with special events, live music and fireworks.
Hockey fans attending the Heritage Classic will also be treated to a historical alumni game featuring some of the most celebrated names in NHL hockey history. Wayne Gretzky will be lacing up his skates and donning an Oilers jersey for the first time since 1988, as he leads a team of Edmonton Oilers alumni against Guy Lafleur and a team of Montreal Canadiens alumni. The game will mark the first time Gretzky has participated in an alumni game, and the Great One is excited to return to the City of Champions, “I’ve already promised Kevin (Lowe). If Kevin will lace them up, then I will too. And it will be a thrill.”
Patrick LaForge, President & CEO of the Edmonton Oilers, is equally enthused, “The Heritage Classic is what playing in the Heartland of Hockey is all about – pulling on a toque, bundling up, and getting out into the great outdoors. We’re turning back the clock for the Heritage Classic, and giving fans the chance to relive hockey’s golden heritage. It’s going to be an unforgettable weekend for hockey fans everywhere!”
Pierre Boivin, President of the Montreal Canadiens agrees, “It is a great honour for the Montreal Canadiens to have been selected to play against the Oilers in the Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Many hockey players and fans in Canada enjoy playing the game outdoors and this very special event at Commonwealth Stadium will bring us back to the origins of the game we so dearly love. It is a wonderful initiative by the Oilers that will generate a lot of interest and excitement for people in Edmonton and for hockey fans from coast to coast tuned in to Hockey Night in Canada.”
The gridiron at Commonwealth Stadium will be completely redesigned for the Heritage Classic, as a sheet of ice will replace the stadium’s renowned turf. A complete set of regulation NHL rink boards and glass will be erected, as well as players benches, penalty boxes, and much more. This once-in-a-lifetime event also has the potential to set a Guinness World Record for the largest crowd at a professional hockey game.