NHL Heritage Classic
The Canadiens and Flames face off at the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary
|National Hockey League|
|First played||November 22, 2003|
|Most Appearances||2: Montreal Canadiens|
|Most Recent||2011 Heritage Classic|
|Most Recent Winner||Calgary Flames|
The Heritage Classic is a series of outdoor games played in the National Hockey League (NHL). Two games have been played in the series, with a third scheduled for 2014. To date, the match-ups have been exclusively between Canadian teams and the event serves as a counterpart to the Winter Classic. The inaugural Heritage Classic, hosted by Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003, was the first outdoor regular-season game in NHL history and its success served as the precursor to outdoor hockey games played around the world. The second, hosted by Calgary in 2011, set sponsorship and revenue records and led the NHL to consider expanding the frequency of its outdoor games.
The first Heritage classic was played in 2003 and hosted by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers had suggested the idea of hosting an outdoor game as early as the mid 1980s, but the genesis of the 2003 event was the "Cold War" outdoor game played two years prior between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The first regular season outdoor game in NHL history, it was held at Commonwealth Stadium between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens.
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 team received over 750,000 entries from around the world. The game attracted a crowd of 57,167 that set an NHL single-game attendance record that more than doubled the previous mark. 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, which was played in Buffalo between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. A new league record crowd of 71,217 watched the Penguins defeat the Sabres in a game that quickly became the NHL's showcase event. 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 and, due to record sponsorship, grossed the highest revenue for a single event in NHL history.
The third Heritage Classic will be played at BC Place in Vancouver in 2014 between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. It will be part of a six-game outdoor set during the 2013–14 NHL season that will include the 2014 Winter Classic and the four-game Stadium Series.
List of games
Bolded teams denote winners
|Year||Date||City||Stadium||Away Team||Score||Home Team||Attendance||Ref|
|2003||November 22||Edmonton, Alberta||Commonwealth Stadium||Montreal Canadiens||4–3||Edmonton Oilers||57,167|||
|2011||February 20||Calgary, Alberta||McMahon Stadium||Montreal Canadiens||0–4||Calgary Flames||41,022|||
|2014||March 2||Vancouver, British Columbia||BC Place||Ottawa Senators||Vancouver Canucks|||
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- Johnson, George (2011-02-13). "Taking it outside". Calgary Herald. p. F6.
- Burnside, Scott (2010-12-30). "Put Heritage Classic back on shelf". ESPN. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- Wharnsby, Tim (2011-02-20). "Flames blank Canadiens in NHL Heritage Classic". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- "Gary Bettman says 6 outdoor NHL games is what fans want". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2013-11-19.