The NHL is set to embark on a new adventure that will see the league host six outdoor games this upcoming season, dramatically up from the traditional one Winter Classic that would occur every New Year’s Day. Some call it overkill and feel it’s taking away from the prestigious event that the league had built up over the past five years, while others are excited about seeing numerous games played outdoors. Regardless, the Edmonton Oilers are not involved in any of the six games this year and by the sounds of it, they may not be playing in any in the near future.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is a big advocate for the Winter Classic and he thoroughly enjoys the thought of hosting multiple games outside during the upcoming regular season. He recently spoke to the Canadian Press about it and when asked where future games may take place, Edmonton was not mentioned.
He mentioned that games could again be held in markets such as Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Boston and Philadelphia, teams that have held games in the past. Granted these would be along the lines of either the Winter Classic or part of the Stadium Series and Edmonton doesn’t necessarily qualify, it’s understandable why the City of Champions was excluded.
This year the Winter Classic is being held in Michigan, the same venue as last year’s cancelled game. The NHL has awarded the Vancouver Canucks with the Heritage Classic, the game the Oilers were responsible for putting on the map when they christened the league to outdoor games back in 2003, proving it’s possible. The league has also come up with a Stadium Series that will feature an additional four games to be sprinkled throughout Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, making this the second time that the Blackhawks have hosted such an event.
All Oilers fans recall that frosty November day when Commonwealth Stadium was transformed into a gigantic hockey rink. The glass broke when it got brittle and a puck hit it in the wrong spot and the ice conditions were a concern thanks to the plummeting temperatures as the game wore on. But what does the league expect the temperature to do in northern Alberta in late November? Having the game earlier in the month or even late October is more than reasonable and would provide a break from the depths of the discouraging temperatures that only true Western Canadians can understand and appreciate.
While Edmonton wasn’t mentioned in the foreseeable future for another Heritage Classic and given the history that both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens have, it’s difficult to imagine an outdoor game coming back to Alberta any time soon. Even though the Habs were the opponent when the Oilers had the Classic, it’s hard to fathom that Montreal would want Edmonton to be their visiting team should they ever host the event. There’s too much history with the Canadiens and a handful of other teams that would make an intriguing story line than having the Oilers play. The same can be said for the Maple Leafs.
Were the Oilers snubbed? That’s a tough question to accurately answer but it’s hard not to feel the love when so many other teams are essentially doing what Edmonton did first. For now, Oilers fans will have to enjoy the outdoor games on TV, unless they want to make the trek to Vancouver to watch the Canucks play the Senators. Then again, the idea of staying home is suddenly more appealing.