Seeing the legends that I grew up watching on the ice again can only be described as surreal. Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Coffey, Anderson, Tikkanen, and Lowe were the backbone of the dominant Oilers dynasty of the 1980s, and standing across from there were names like Hawerchuk, McBain, Babych, Kyte, and Steen who were the foot soldiers that Winnipeg sent out to dethrone these mighty foes. Winnipeg, however, got some help from some the stars of the 1990s such as Selanne, Olczyk, King, and Eagles as the Jets assembled a nice mix of players from the 1980s and 1990s on their roster. Whether or not that roster would be good enough to dispatch the former "glory days" Oilers on this Saturday was yet to be seen.
Here's the thing, though: it didn't matter. Everyone was here to watch the legends they grew up watching in the old Smythe Division come together in celebration of what they did, of the future they helped to pave, and of the memories that came flooding back to the 38,000 people in attendance. This was about watching an all-star game that featured all our favorite players from a time when the hometown team was everything and the "evil" Oilers had to lose.
Smiles were big. Laughter was had. The twinkles in each player's eyes could have lit up the stadium on their own as the players took to the ice in a roar of approval from the crowd. While there was anticipation for the biggest stars, players who were never heralded as the fastest, the most skilled, the most dependable, or, simply, the greatest were suddenly everyone's favorite players. This game was as much about the players giving more memories to the fans as it was about the fans giving their heroes one last cheer for making their childhood memories so vivid.
Selanne scored. Kris King scored. Dale Hawerchuk scored. Mark Messier got one back. Mike Eagles might have scored his most memorable goal as a Jet. After 20 minutes of play, the Jet led 4-1 over the Oilers as the home team appeared to be having too much fun out on the ice. However, like their teams of the 1980s, these Oilers were not to be counted out. Craig Simpson, Mark Messier, and Craig McTavish all tallied goals in the second period to tie the game at 4-4 through 40 minutes, and it was down to one period of play to determine a winner.
BJ MacDonald put the Oilers up midway through the third period, but former Jets captain and current VP of Hockey Operations Kris King went to the net and found the back of the net off a great feed from Teemu Selanne, and we were tied again at 5-5. Would we see overtime? No, we would not as Craig Simpson hauled down Teemu Selanne with 3.6 seconds to play, and the Finnish Flash sniped the game-winner through Curtis Joseph's five-hole to give the Jets alumni the 6-5 win! All your highlights are below!
Ok, it's rant time and here's where I have a problem. I was stopped by security at the entry gate where they informed me that I was not allowed to bring in any camera that "had a detachable lens or had a lens longer than three inches". According to the security guard, this is a True North Sports and Entertainment rule that is also in effect at MTS Centre, and that they were told to strictly enforce the rule at Investors Group Field. According to the MTS Centre website,
Professional cameras are prohibited at all events in MTS Centre unless accompanied by appropriate facility media credentials. Video cameras, audio recorders, iPads or other tablets are also prohibited unless specifically approved on an event-by-event basis. MTS Centre will not check cameras or tablets for guests at events where such items are prohibited so patrons will be required to return them to their vehicle or stored elsewhere off-site. Still (non-professional) point and shoot cameras are allowed for Winnipeg Jets hockey games and certain other specified events (the use of flash is prohibited). Cameras with detachable lenses and/or ones that do not fit in a standard pant pocket will be prohibited. Venue reserves the right to determine acceptable size or type of camera and prohibit entry at their sole discretion. Camera policies for entertainment events can vary by artist and event type, and specific restrictions are not always known in advance. If unsure of camera policy for an event, enquiries can be made by calling (204) 987-7825.I could probably accept this had this policy actually been enforced for all spectators. Instead, I took three steps inside Investors Group Field after having returned my camera to my car only to find a spectator without media credentials using his Canon camera with a clearly detachable zoom lens! What in the holy hell is going on here, TNSE? It's stuff like this that infuriates me as a fan because I miss out on giving you a picture of what the game looked like from my seat. If you read my article last week about the trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul, the Minnesota Wild had no issues with my camera, and the photos were pretty incredible to see! Get your act together, TNSE. People want to capture the memories of events like this.
Outside of this one major pain in the rear, the entire day was incredible. I never would have guessed that I would see the likes of Teemu Selanne, Dale Hawerchuk, and Mark Messier score goals at my age today, but the Heritage Classic event allowed me to see my hockey idols once more, perhaps for the last time, on ice. If this is the last time I see Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Hawerchuk, Olczyk, and Selanne on the ice in Winnipeg, I can happily say I saw the guys I watched growing up defeat one of the greatest teams of all-time!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!