Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

As many hockey fans remember, on a blistering cold late November day in 2003, the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens took part in the first-ever Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Although the NHL would go on to create the Winter Classic for American franchises, it returned to Canada in 2011 to bring back the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

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Surprisingly, the Canadiens played in the second contest against the Flames, becoming the first team to be shut out at the Heritage Classic. Meanwhile, Vancouver would eventually host the game in 2014, followed by Winnipeg in 2016 and Regina in 2019. Even though the event doesn’t happen every season like the Winter Classic or the Stadium Series, it was held in Hamilton last year and now returns to its birthplace at Commonwealth Stadium with the Battle of Alberta.

Historically, the Oilers and Flames are 1-1 in their respective outdoor games on Canadian soil. As everyone prepares for the 2023 Heritage Classic, it is an excellent time to revisit the Flames’ previous contests in the cold.

Flames Earn First Heritage Classic Shutout (2011)

When the NHL introduced the Heritage Classic, it took place in Edmonton, about a three-hour drive north of Calgary. Interestingly, when the league decided to bring back the event, they opted to host it in another Alberta city, this time in the Calgary Stampeders’ home facility, McMahon Stadium. Although the venture changed, the opponent did not, with the Canadiens traveling west for another outdoor game.

Related: Interview with Lanny McDonald – the 2011 Heritage Classic

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In front of 41,022 fans, the home team pitched a 4-0 shutout win over the visitors, as the Flames became the first team not to give up any goals in the Heritage Classic. Ultimately, the game came down to special teams, with Calgary scoring two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal. Interestingly, both teams had near identical records at the time, with the Flames at 31-22-8 and the Canadiens at 31-22-7. Regarding starting netminders, Carey Price lost, while Miikka Kiprusoff picked up his only win outdoors.

Scoring Summary

1-0 CGY – 1st (8:09) Rene Bourque (PP) from Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen
2-0 CGY – 2nd (12:44) Anton Babchuk (SH) from Curtis Glencross, Brendan Morrison
3-0 CGY – 2nd (14:46) Rene Bourque from Cory Sarich
4-0 CGY – 3rd (10:53) Alex Tanguay (PP) from Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrison

Of course, long-time Flames fans will remember this lineup and how special it was to host the Heritage Classic in 2011. Besides seeing franchise icons like Iginla and Kiprusoff find their names on the scoresheet, a 21-year-old Mikael Backlund also skated in the game, registering a shot on goal in 12:04 of ice time. As one of the longest-tenured skaters on a Canadian team, the current Flames captain will become the first player to dress in three Heritage Classic games.

Flames Become First Team to Lose in Overtime at Heritage Classic (2019)

After games in 2014 and 2016, the NHL brought the Heritage Classic to Winnipeg, Manitoba, at Investors Group Field. In front of the second smallest crowd to date for an outdoor game in Canada, 33,518, the Flames blew a 1-0 lead, allowing the Jets to tie the game late in the third and win it in overtime in front of the hometown crowd. Considering this game only took place four seasons ago, there are plenty of names still in their respective dressing rooms, like Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, and Andrew Mangiapane in Calgary.

Related: Winnipeg Jets & Calgary Flames 2019 Heritage Classic Storylines

Meanwhile, the Jets, awaiting their next turn at participating in the Heritage Classic, still employ Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Adam Lowry, David Gustafsson, Mark Scheifere, Neal Pionk, and Connor Hellebuyck. After playing in back-to-back outdoor games, losing 3-0 to the Oilers in 2016, Winnipeg found a way to earn their first win at the Heritage Classic.

Scoring Summary

1-0 CGY – 2nd (14:47) Elias Lindholm (PP) from Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan
1-1 WIN – 3rd (15:49) Josh Morrissey (PP) from Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele
2-1 WIN – OT (3:04) Bryan Little from Kyle Connor, Neal Pionk

After the 2019 game, the Jets and Flames tied the Oilers and Canadiens with a 1-1 record at the event, with the Buffalo Sabres the only undefeated team as of this writing, winning 5-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2022. Moreover, the Canucks, are winless in their only appearance, losing in 2014. Statistically, with a single goal in 2019, the Flames are the second-highest-scoring team (five goals), with the Sabres at the Heritage Classic behind the Oilers, who led the pack with six.

Flames Must Avoid Becoming Only Team With Two Losses at Heritage Classic

Before the puck drops on Oct. 29, 2023, the Flames and Oilers are near the bottom of the NHL standings, with the winless San Jose Sharks preventing them from last place. Even though Calgary has two wins, compared to just one by Edmonton, their captain, and reigning league MVP, Connor McDavid, is expected to return to the lineup, providing an immediate boost for the home team and their fans.

NHL Heritage Classic, Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Sask., Friday, October 25, 2019 (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

Unfortunately, as the Flames continue to sort out their lines and new playing system under Ryan Huska, they must head into the Heritage Classic with the mentality of playing spoiler. Considering the Oilers have already played hosts to the event and lost, the pressure will be on this year’s team to reward their faithful fanbase with a win. Furthermore, the Oilers are coming off a shutout win over the Jets in the 2016 game, with Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid still in orange and blue.

Although both fan bases believe it is too early in the season to panic about their performances, whoever wins the 2023 Heritage Classic could use the victory as a springboard to a much-needed winning streak and serve as a turning point after some early struggles. Ultimately, it won’t matter why you tune in or who you root for; the latest edition of an NHL outdoor game will be memorable. However, it could also be one of the most essential games for two teams looking for anything positive in 2023-24.

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