On October 23rd, the Winnipeg Jets hosted the Edmonton Oilers in the 2016 edition of the Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field. The Heritage, and Winter Classic format set up by the NHL gives two teams the opportunity to play a regular season game in an outdoor stadium environment. The annual Winter Classic for example, is a fan favorite each and every year. It gives one game a year extra special significance, as teams battle it out in the harsh elements of winter in front of huge numbers of adoring fans. These nostalgic and genuinely authentic games remind us of the good old times growing up at the outdoor rink with friends, and staying out late into the night.
This season, the Heritage Classic -which is always contested by two Canadian teams- was played for only the fourth time. Initially beginning in 2003 right here in Edmonton, the Heritage Classic has since been played in Calgary, Vancouver and now Winnipeg. Similar to the 2003 game, this year's instalment also consisted of an Alumni Game hosted the day before the regular season game. The Alumni event was played by some of the game's legends, heroes and great ones of the past. It gives fans both young and old the chance to see these idols pull on their respective sweaters on last time. When the weekend was all said and done, Teemu Selanne had helped the Jets to win the Alumni game, while second periods goals from Mark Letestu, Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian led the Oilers to a 3-0 victory in the official Heritage Classic. As of October 24th, the Edmonton Oilers are 5-1. Thank you Connor.
However, after thoroughly enjoying both games, I was left a little disappointed by the Oilers organization for one simple reason; they didn’t release a special retro jersey. For whatever reason, the boys decided to simply wear their current third alternate jersey. Our Winnipeg counterparts on the other hand, went the classic route and put a modern twist on a vintage Jets jersey. That's they way it should be done.
From a hockey fan's perspective, one of the major draws of having your team play in either a Heritage/Winter Classic, is the likelihood of seeing your team in their old school colors, or a special version of it. These timeless jerseys with their commemorative game patches will always hold a special place in anyone's jersey collection. For whatever reason, the Oilers chose not to bring back a classic sweater. Since the league adopted the Winter Classic event, several teams have brought out nasty jerseys to celebrate the big occasion.
Arguably, every other team has come out swinging with good looking jerseys. In no particular order, here are some of the standouts from the last few Classic games: Montreal Canadiens (Winter Classic, 2016), Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs (Winter Classic, 2014), New York Rangers (Winter Classic, 2012), Calgary Flames (Heritage Classic, 2011), Boston Bruins (Winter Classic, 2010), and the Pittsburgh Penguins (Winter Classic, 2008).
Long story short, the Edmonton Oilers missed a marquee chance to give the fans a vintage sweater. Who knows when we will get this opportunity again? Roughly thirteen years have passed since we played in the inaugural Heritage Classic here at home in Commonwealth Stadium. Choosing whether to simply tweak, or pick an old jersey design can’t be the hardest thing to do for management, especially considering the fact that we just built a new state of the art downtown arena. From a marketing standpoint, it represent a huge cash grab and builds further hype for the event, as fans rush to pick up these limited edition jerseys. As an established team and organization, the Oilers do have a few choices in the old locker room.
A simple option would have been to bring back the copper and blue jersey of the late 90’s. Originally used in the 1996 season, this jersey included the popular oil rig worker shoulder patch. This would have been a cool choice, albeit not the most traditional option. The ideal option would have been to play in the original Oilers jersey from the World Hockey Association days back in 1972. This is pre NHL times for the Oil. That would have been a good look, especially the white jersey with the orange shoulders. Using the older, and predominantly orange crest logo would have also been a unique nod to the past. Instead, we played in our standard third jersey. Maybe next time sports fans?
At least we didn’t take it back to the early 2000’s Todd McFarlane comic book jersey. Did I mention that he is from Calgary?
Thumbnail Credit: The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier