I've always wondered why when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the NHL’s first outdoor regular-season game, it wasn't against the Calgary Flames.
Well, the league looks to be rectifying that. And the planning between now and then offers so much opportunity for the next chapter of the Battle of Alberta.
It was reported recently that the Oilers would be hosting a Heritage Classic again, 20 years after the original. On Saturday night, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman confirmed the opponent at Commonwealth Stadium would be the Flames.
“It’s not exactly a huge secret — it’s probably one of the worst kept secrets in the NHL — the Heritage Classic is returning to Edmonton next year. But what we can also tell you is that this is going to be a Battle of Alberta,” Friedman said Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada’s 32 Thoughts segment between periods of the Calgary Flames' 5-4 OT loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“The Flames will be the opponent at Commonwealth Stadium. Not a specific date set yet, but it’s believed it’ll be in October, so it’s going to be a little warmer than the first one was 20 years ago on this anniversary.”
Since that memorable game in front of nearly 60,000 fans, the NHL has saturated the hockey market with outdoor contests. The Heritage Classic featured the Montreal Canadiens winning 4-3 in awful weather on November 22, 2003. The temperature was -18 C without the windchill at puck drop.
Interestingly, it will be the third outdoor game for each team. They've both played the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets in the irregular NHL addition.
In addition to the New Year's Day tradition of the Winter Classic — which features the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins at Fenway Stadium this January — the original outdoor game spawned the popular Stadium Series, which has offered multiple outdoor opportunities in recent years.
In Alberta, though, the outdoor battle is long overdue.
The alumni element alone would make it a must-see weekend. Outside of seeing legends like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier or Doug Gilmour, it would be great to have Robyn Regehr hit the ice against Ales Hemsky again.
But there's almost a year to plan it out, so I won't get too far ahead of myself.
The Flames play the Canadiens on Monday before heading home again.