The NHL takes the fight outside

On November 22, 2003, the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers played in the Heritage Classic, the National Hockey League’s first ever outdoor game at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

The home team, the Oilers, suffered a 4-3 loss to the Canadiens. There was no score on either side of the rink at the end of the first period. The Oilers took a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period, and they never looked back. The Canadiens did not score until 13 minutes into the third period, but their efforts were not enough to overcome their opponent.

The Canadiens goalie, Jose Theodore, gave fans a laugh with the fashion statement he made when he put a winter hat on top of his goalie helmet as he made 34 saves. His teammates Yanic Perreault and Richard Zednik each scored two goals to give the team from Montreal the edge in the night game.

The personality for the night on the Oilers side was Lee Hrycun who showed up two hours early with a Stanley cup Banner draped over his shoulders like a cape. The 21-year-old was pleased to have an opportunity to see Wayne Gretzky play in the old-timers game before the main feature.

Zednik enjoyed the experience for the most part. His only complaint was the temperature staying around zero Fahrenheit with the wind chill making it feel like it was about negative 15. The players wore long underwear to prevent themselves from freezing. The ice was chippy and the puck had a tendency to bounce around because of the extreme weather. “At the bench I was warm,” he said. “I didn’t like to be on the bench before, but now I was excited to come back and sit.”

Before the players started their game, there was an old timer’s game where greats like Wayne Gretzky,  Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Kevin Lowe were given a chance to play and celebrate Canadian outdoor hockey culture. The Oilers Alumni team beat the Canadiens 2-0. Messier still played for the New York Rangers and had to receive special permission to play in the historic game.

Here is a video commemorating the traditional hockey game.  

The NHL started their annual Winter Classic in 2008 where two rival teams are selected to play in outside where in unpredictable weather. 

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