EDMONTON — Temperatures were more comfortable for the NHL's Heritage Classic on Sunday than they were for the event's inaugural edition 20 years ago at Commonwealth Stadium.
Oilers fan Brent Oliver braved the frigid conditions in 2003 and was excited to return for this year's outdoor game between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. The mercury hovered around the freezing mark ahead of puck drop with partly cloudy conditions expected through the evening.
Like many of the 57,167 fans who saw the Montreal Canadiens beat the Oilers 4-3 in 2003, Oliver's lasting memory was the -18 C temperature with a wind chill that made it feel like -30 C.
"I left in the third (period) last time because after the alumni game and main game, I was frozen to the core,” recalled Oliver. “It took me three days to warm up.”
The Oilers and Flames have both struggled in the early going this season. Calgary entered play Sunday with a 2-5-1 record, slightly better than Edmonton's 1-5-1 mark.
Both teams heard choruses of boos in 3-0 home losses on Thursday night. The St. Louis Blues shut out the Flames and the Oilers fell to the New York Rangers.
Reigning NHL MVP Connor McDavid, who has missed the last two games due to an upper-body injury, was listed as a game-time decision for Edmonton.
The Oilers and Flames both wore themed costumes during their pre-game media availabilities. Oilers players were dressed in blue rig-hand work clothes.
“The outfit coming to the game is a fun way you can represent your city, the fans and the people,” said Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “I think it’s a really cool thing and they did a great job getting these done.”
Flames players wore denim coveralls and white cowboy hats. The hat is a Calgary emblem while the cowpoke outfits were forward Nazem Kadri’s idea.
Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane expected the night to be special.
“I grew up playing on the outdoor rink that my dad made me, and it’s a good memory we’ll share out here,” he said. “It’s been an awesome couple of days here, and hopefully we finish it off with a bang.”
Alternative rock band Beaches performed before the game at nearby Clarke Stadium. Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Nickelback was tabbed to provide the second-intermission entertainment.
Ticket sales were strong ahead of the game with Ticketmaster's website showing only resale tickets available as of early Sunday afternoon.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2023.
Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press