Saturday, November 21, 2009
Held to commemorate the Edmonton Oilers 25th season in the NHL and the 20th Anniversary of their first Stanley Cup Championship, the Oilers staged the first regular season outdoor game in NHL history, dubbed The Heritage Classic. The game was staged at Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in front of a capacity crowd of 57,167 fans despite temperatures of 0ºF and a windchill of -22ºF.
Wayne Gretzky, Guy Lafleur and Mark Messier pose at the MegaStars Game
The weekend of events also featured the Heritage Classic MegaStars Alumni Game, which featured past Edmonton Oilers stars from their 1980's dynasty, such as Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford and Glenn Anderson versus Montreal Canadiens greats representing their 1970's dynasty, along with a few players from their 1986 and 1993 Stanley Cup teams, led by Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson. Mark Messier even received permission from the New York Rangers to play in the MegaStars game for the Oilers, the only currently active player to compete in the contest.
Aside from the Oilers first NHL captain Ron Chipperfield and Russ Courtnall for the Canadiens all the players in the contest had won a Stanley Cup for either the Oilers or the Canadiens. Mark Napier held the distinction of being the only player in the game who had won a cup with both the Oilers and Canadiens.
The game was played in two fifteen-minute halves and was won by the Oliers by a score of 2-0 on goals by Ken Linseman and Marty McSorley. Goaltenders Fuhr and Ranford combined for 25 saves in the Oilers goal for the shutout. With his number 31 having been recently retired by the Oilers Fuhr stated "You can't ask for more to happen in one year. I should almost buy a lottery ticket."
The Oilers wore throwback jerseys from their Stanley Cup dynasty, an obvious choice, while the Canadiens wore their vintage jerseys based on their sweaters from their 1946 Stanley Cup championship team, which would later become their third jerseys.
Lafleur stated "It felt like we were 10 again, but with the legs of 50-year-olds."
One of the highlights of the event was the sight of the players shoveling snow off the ice between halves like they did in their youth.
"Everybody is so happy to be involved in this," Messier said. "It's unbelievable o see so many fans come out to see this game."
"The concept was just fantastic," added Lafleur.
The day prior to the MegaStars Game, the teams held a practice to get their legs moving and get used to the outdoor rink.
"The ice was hard, it was great, and I think it will be better (Saturday) after a little bit of use (Friday)," said Messier after the practice.
"It's just amazing to come back and for it to be that easy for everybody - to fit in, to say hello, to get out there and practice. It was just like we left off," added Messier."All the pieces fit comfortably together."
Glenn Sather, who coached the Oilers alumni, said that Friday's practice "was kind of a romantic moment."
Today's featured jersey is a 2002-04 Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky practice jersey as worn during the Friday practice the day prior to the MegaStars Game.
It features Gretzky's name and number on the back as well as the NHL Center Ice logo on the right chest. Other added details is the CCM logo and stenciled "58" size tag on the font hem and the CCM logo just below the collar on the back.
Creating this simple practice jersey was not as easy as one would think, as all the separate elements were added individually to the jersey. A blank, white jersey was first purchased, along with a "donor" black Pittsburgh Penguins jersey for the Center Ice and CCM logos since a white Oilers jersey of this vintage was not available. Once the three logos was transferred over from the Penguins jersey, an Oilers crest, purchased separately on ebay was added to the jersey.
The size "58" tag was then made with our custom printing technique for added detail and finally the jersey was customized with Gretkzy's name an number in one color blue as worn during the practice to complete the project.
Here is an interesting interview with Gretzky about his participation in the MegaStars Game and his reluctance to participate in Old Timers Games, as well as his enlightened prediction that the Winter Classic would follow in the Heritage Classic's footsteps.
Next is a great video find, footage from the Friday practice session where today's featured jersey was worn as well as interviews with the players involved.
Here Wayne reflects on his favorite moment of the Heritage Classic, the Friday practice that today's featured jersey is from.