The Tim Hortons Heritage Classic will be held on Sunday March 2 at BC Place in Vancouver. PHN thought a brief history of the Heritage Classic was in order as fans get ready for this game.
The first Heritage classic was played in 2003 and was hosted by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers suggested the idea of hosting an outdoor game as early as the mid 1980s. The game was held at Commonwealth Stadium between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens and was first regular season outdoor game in NHL history,.
Demand for tickets to the game was unprecedented in the history of Edmonton sports events. After sales to Edmonton’s season ticket holders and league sponsors, the Oilers held a lottery for the remaining 7,000 seats that awarded 1,750 persons the opportunity to purchase four tickets each. The over 750,000 requests poured in from around the world. The game crowd was 57,167 that set an NHL single-game attendance record. The event featured an alumni game between past greats of the Canadiens and Oilers, including Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur. The game itself was played at a temperature of −19 °C (−2 °F); the Canadiens defeated the Oilers by a score of 4–3.
The success of the Heritage Classic led to the 2008 Winter Classic, played in Buffalo between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. A new league record crowd of 71,217 watched the Penguins defeat the Sabres. The Winter Classic became an annual event but focused on American teams. Faced with increasing criticism at the lack of Canadian participation in the Winter Classic, the NHL revived the Heritage Classic in 2011 and pitted the Canadiens against the host Calgary Flames. It marked the first time the NHL held two outdoor games in the same season, a decision that some commentators, including ESPN’s Scott Burnside, argued would dilute the spectacle of the Winter Classic.
Like the Edmonton game, the 2011 Heritage Classic was a success, as the Flames defeated Montreal 4–0 in front of 41,022 fans at McMahon Stadium. The game achieved high television ratings in both Canada and the United States.
The stage is set for the third Heritage Classic this Sunday sponsored by Tim Hortons. Follow PHN on Facebook and Twitter as our staff report live from the event.