With the Jets rolling through the nation's capital this week, there was a lot of Jets buzz in Ottawa. Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news came out of the NHL Offices this week that the Jets have put the buzz in the league's ear about possibly hosting the next Heritage Classic in 2014. Yes, Canadian hockey fans, you read that correctly - the next outdoor game in Canada will be played in 2014, three years from now. Forget the fact that the Canadiens have been in both Heritage Classic games while the two Alberta-based teams made up the opposition. Apparently the Jets want in for the next one, and "an NHL source" thinks there could be a good chance Winterpeg gets a shot at hosting the 2014 game.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless, his article from today;s paper shows the Jets are very interested in moving ahead of other Canadian teams such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa when it comes to hosting the outdoor game.
A league source has confirmed to the Free Press that the Winnipeg Jets have expressed interest in hosting the next Heritage Classic, which is expected to be played in 2014.As excited as I am about this event, there are a few things that need to be considered when looking at Winnipeg as a possible venue for the Heritage Classic.
The NHL is expected to study and consider the viability of hosting the outdoor game in Winnipeg.
"Winnipeg will have the benefit of having a suitable outdoor facility," said an NHL source, referring to the new football stadium being built on the University of Manitoba campus and expected to be ready for next summer's CFL season.
The NHL has developed the Winter Classic into a yearly franchise in the U.S. in an attempt to sell the game, but uses the Canadian version known as the Heritage Classic much more sparingly.
The Jets had no comment on the potential of hosting an outdoor game.
First, if Winnipeg does succeed in getting this game, the only opponent that would be fitting would be the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's almost tragic that one of the founding franchises in the NHL has yet to participate in any sort of outdoor game, especially when you consider that Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Montreal have already played in two. Well, except Philly, but that will happen on January 2, 2012.
Having Toronto come to Winnipeg to play in the Heritage Classic guarantees two things: a huge fanbase that will descend upon Winnipeg that support the Maple Leafs, and the rabid Winnipeg fanbase that supports the Jets. Selling the place out shouldn't be a problem unless Winnipeg's weather decides to show up in full force.
The average high and low temperatures in Winnipeg in February - the month in which the 2011 Heritage Classic was played - are -20C and -9C (-4F and 16F). I can tell you that it feels a whole heckuva lot colder than that in February. The average high and low temperatures in Winnipeg in November - the month in which the 2003 Heritage Classic was played - are -18C and -9C (0F and 16F). November is actually ideal because it's normally just getting cold enough to start laying down ice, but Manitoba is occasionally known for it's longer summers. If I'm the NHL, I'm looking at the deep-freeze in February for this game.
With the temperatures being a lot colder in February, the ice should turn out much better and much faster for the players. Of course, the flip side of the coin is that the players will have to find ways to stay warm because the winds are usually the factor that everyone forgets about when visiting Winnipeg in the winter.
With the game being in Winnipeg, there's probably a better than good chance that the Jets introduce an alternate jersey in one of the old styles that the old Jets used to wear. These would sell like ice in the desert, so you know that the alternate uniform tie-in has the Jets salivating at the thought of another merchandise windfall of cash.
The city of Winnipeg itself is home to some impressive hockey history. The Winnipeg Falcons were the first gold medalists in men's hockey for Canada at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. Former Jets and current Hall of Famers Dale Hawerchuk, Bobby Hull, and Serge Savard all played for Jets. NHL legends Bill Mosienko, Terry Sawchuk, Andy Bathgate, Kenny Reardon, Ted Irvine, Ed and Mud Bruneteau, and Herb Gardiner were all born in Winnipeg. Sports broadcasters Brian Williams, Don Wittman, and Scott Oake spent many nights in Winnipeg, covering all sports including hockey. These examples alone show that Winnipeg has a deep and rich hockey history.
I like the idea that the Jets want to bring the Winter Classic to Winnipeg, but they can't shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs in this process if they want this game to fly. Toronto deserves to be in one of these big games, and the weather in Winnipeg would almost guarantee that the game would be successful on the ice.
Off the ice? Here's a quick instructional video on how to dress for Winnipeg in February.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!