Heritage Classic

The Heritage Classic was an outdoor ice hockey game played on November 22, 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It was the second NHL outdoor game and the first regular season outdoor game in the history of the National Hockey League, and was modeled after the success of the "cold war" game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University in 2001. The game was given the tagline " A November to Remember.". The very first NHL game to be played outdoors was in 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings played the New York Rangers in an exhibition game outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The event took place in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in front of a crowd of 57,167, despite temperatures of close to -18 °C, -30 °C (-22 °F) with wind chill. It was held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Edmonton Oilers joining the NHL in 1979. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television broadcast also set the record for most viewers of a single NHL game with 2.747 million nationwide. This was the first NHL game broadcast in HD on CBC.

First, the MegaStars game was played between some of the best former players from both clubs. The Oilers were represented by the best players from their 1980s dynasty, led by Wayne Gretzky. The Canadiens were represented by players from their 1970s dynasty, led by Guy Lafleur, and a few members of the 1986 and 1993 championship squads. Both teams were composed of players who had won Stanley Cups with the Oilers or Canadiens, except for the Oilers' first NHL captain Ron Chipperfield and the Canadiens' Russ Courtnall who Rejean Houle said was selected for his speed. Mark Napier was the only player that played for both the Oilers and the Canadiens during his NHL career and won Stanley Cups with both teams. Napier played for the Canadiens during the Heritage Classic game. Mark Messier got special permission from the New York Rangers front office to compete for Edmonton in the game. The MegaStars game consisted of two fifteen-minute halves rather than three 20 minute periods, and was won by the Oilers by a score of 2–0. After the game, Messier called the low-scoring contest "a typical Oilers win," a reference to the numerous high-scoring games of the Oilers' heyday in the 1980s.

The second game was between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal won the game 4 to 3. Richard Zednik of the Montreal Canadiens scored the first goal of the game, and also scored the game-winner. One of the more memorable highlights of the game was goalie José Theodore wearing a Canadiens tuque over the top of his goalie mask.

The game was released to DVD by the CBC, and included special features such as player interviews.

Given the success of the Heritage Classic, a second regular season outdoor NHL game, the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic was played on January 1, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.


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