They are celebrating the Heritage of Canada's national sport in the heartland of the country this weekend, with Winnipeg the focus point for this years celebration of hockey and it's roots, the Heritage Classic.
The weekend started with a Friday evening gala filled with tales of the past from both the visiting Edmonton Oilers and their dynasty for the ages, as well as the home town Winnipeg Jets.
A team built with a blue print taken from the people they have represented through the WHA days and into their modern era of the NHL. Focused on a dedication to the need for hard work and sacrifice, before expecting any rewards.
Jets fans have made their sacrifices and are ready for some of that reward and for many, the arrival of such a high profile showcase as the Heritage Classic is an nod from the league as to the respect that Manitoba pays to the history of the game.
Friday's reminiscing turned to the outdoor rink at Investor's Group Stadium, as the Oilers Alumni and Jets Alumni faced off in the Saturday afternoon alumni match up.
A game that brought many of the familiar names of the past back for skate on the rink built on the expanse of the football field normally put to use by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or University of Manitoba Bisons.
In its way a symbol of some of the pond hockey of many memories, though with slightly warmer temperatures than say a crisp January afternoon might have delivered.
During the course of the Saturday broadcast, it was noted with some awe the importance that the many community rinks in the city have for the region. With many an NHL dream created on any given Winnipeg evening, under the bright lights and not far from a hot stove.
Most of the names of yesteryear were there Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, a young whippersnapper named Ryan Smyth for the Oilers; Dave Babych, Ed Olcyk and Dale Hawerchuk for the Jets, the appreciation from the crowd ringing in the ears of each and everyone of the players as they took their place on the ice.
The hockey was what might expected at such events, a leisurely skate on the ice with occasional flashes of what once would bring fans to their feet, the game ending on a penalty shot with the Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne sending the crowd of 31,000 plus home with the desired good vibe of a victory over the Oilers. Reversing the narrative of the past of a team, when the Edmontonians would dash the hopes of River City hockey fans on more than a few occasions in the halcyon days of the Oilers/Jets battles.
Attention now turns to Sunday's showdown between the current Jets and an Oilers squad that for many, is starting to remind hockey fans of a similar collection of youngsters from the eighties whe were ready to make their mark on the NHL.
Though if we're looking for an omen for how Sunday's game might end, look no further than the newest exciting import from Finland.
With the legend Teemu Selanne settling up Saturday's Alumni showcase, surely Patrick Laine will be the name that Jets fans will be cheering when the Sunday Classic comes to an end.
|Investors Group Field in Winnipeg is the host venue for this years|
Heritage Classic between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers
(Photo from NHL website)
Heritage Classic Website
Some notes on the Heritage Classic can be found below:
Sunday's Main event
Puck Drop 2 PM Manitoba Time/3 PM ET/ Noon PT
Sportsnet, TVA, NHL Network (USA)
Jets hone in on Heritage Classic
Scheifele catches eye of Oilers head coach
Teemu gives Laine thumbs-up
Stafford ready for full experience
Patrick Laine and Tyler Myers check out the stadium
Jets prep for Heritage game
A fun week for Jets
Jets plan on keeping it simple in Sunday's Heritage Classic
Connor McDavid is excited to play outdoor game
Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele are fast friends
Oilers outdoor 'rookies' excited
Oilers' oldest rivalry vs. Jets about to get hot in a lukewarm place
The Alumni Game
Selanne of course gets alumni winner for Jets over Oilers
Bandit Berthiaume strikes again
Alumni game a winner
Gretzky's last hurrah?
Reminiscing the retro days of hockey
Mullen feels fortunate
Back to the future for Oilers old timers
Babych had to be good in first season, or else
Once a public enemy, Gretzky not used to getting warm receptions in Winnipeg
Huddy wearing both team's colours at Heritage Classic
Lindstrom doing double duty Heritage weekend
Jet's first Finns paved way for likes of Selanne, Laine
Swedes Hedberg and Nilssson lauded as trailblazers for European hockey
Finnish Flash still has panache
Gretzky takes up stinking way too late
Long time no see Wayne ... help you up, buddy?
Nothing compares to Teemu
For Oilers alumni, it's one last time, with feeling
Selanne scores two to lead Jets over Oilers at Heritage Classic alumni game
Some Notes on the Heritage Classic
Wayne Gretzky's fingerprints are all over the Heritage Classic
Perks of the job: Kris King excited for Heritage Classic
A more intimate Heritage Classic
A celebration of hockey history
Heritage Classic revives memories of a night the roof came off at Winnipeg Arena
When the Great One speaks, people listen ... even years after his retirement
Ice tales from a bygone era
NHL outdoor game in Winnipeg, like all of them, has roots in Edmonton
Heritage Classic in 2003 saved in 'the frozen moment'
Steve Staios and Ryan Smyth remember the Big Freeze
Oilers, NHL both want another outdoor game in Edmonton
With Heritage Classic, Winnipeg celebrates the Jets and the future