It’s been known for some time that the Winnipeg Jets were getting an outdoor game in the 2016-17 NHL season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the NHL “owed” Winnipeg a game after plans for the Heritage Classic in Manitoba fell through. In January, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the game would likely be played at Investors Group Field – home of the CFL’s Blue Bombers – in December 2016 against an undetermined opponent.
This would be the earliest an outdoor game will be played during the regular season, breaking the tradition for the NHL since the Winter Classic debuted in 2008 to have that be the first outdoor game of the season.
Why break protocol? Because as you can see here, Winnipeg is [expletive] freezing in January, February and March.
As for the opponent, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun lobbied for the Oilers late last year:
When you consider the old rivalry with the Oilers of the 80's – even if it was so lopsided one might be hard-pressed to consider it a rivalry – it would seem like a natural fit to bring these two clubs together for the outdoor spectacle.
Having McDavid on the marquee to help sell tickets across Canada would be an obvious bonus and how great would it be to see Wayne Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk as the headliners for the alumni game?
And will also be great to see neither of them die of hypothermia.
Congrats to Winnipeg for landing an outdoor game that should – barring injury – bring Connor McDavid to Manitoba for quite an event.