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A Future NHL Heritage Classic Game in Winnipeg?

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The Winnipeg Free Press is reporting that the NHL is researching the possibility of Winnipeg as a future host of the NHL’s Heritage Classic. It is an outdoor hockey game and here, Sportmentary looks at Winnipeg and opines on how good a location it is to host the event.

The game would be played at the soon-to-be completed Investors Group Field, home to the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

On the surface, it would seem as if Winnipeg is not a good host for the Heritage Classic. When I looked at some interesting facts, my mind changed and decided that Winnipeg would be a great host city.

The NHL is working with Environment Canada to gather average temperatures for Winnipeg during the months of January and February. Let me state right off the bat, that January is a terrible month for the Classic to be held in Winnipeg. It’s the city’s coldest month, where average highs are about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Those are the highs, but the lows are about eight degrees Fahrenheit.

With those temperatures, it doesn’t make sense to hold the game in Winnipeg. A regular NHL game is about three hours (including intermissions) and then you have pre- and post-game ceremonies.

Now let’s take a look at February, which would be a good month to hold the game. Average high temperatures are about 16 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures can reach the low 20s. That’s playable for sure. Those type of temperatures are good, because they ensure that the ice surface will remain in good condition.

if my memory serves me correctly, the NHL played an outdoor game last year and parts of the ice surface were melting. So you don’t want the temperature to be much above the mid-20s.

Edmonton hosted the first Heritage Classic game nine years ago—the first outdoor game in the NHL since 1917—at Common Wealth Stadium, home of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos. The temperature that day was minus four degrees Fahrenheit. If the NHL can hold an outdoor game in a city where the temperature was minus four degrees, I believe that they can hold the game in Winnipeg where February temperatures are much milder!

Winnipeggers are resilient when it comes to the weather. They are die-hard hockey fans. The temperature really wouldn’t matter to them. I remember playing outdoor street hockey with friends in snow storms, 30 degrees below temperatures and that was with the wind chill bringing the actual temperature to minus 40. Winnipeg residents will bundle up and enjoy the game.

I know that the NHL has to consider its players and if cold temperatures would add to the risk of injury. Those concerns are valid, but playing an outdoor game in February shouldn’t be a problem.

Winnipeg will be a great host for this type of game. The locals love the game, are friendly, and the culture in the town is top rate. Winnipeg has world-class restaurants, top-notch theaters and other cultural events that would make a weekend stay an enjoyable one, even in winter.

Winnipeg natives would embrace the game and the atmosphere would be incredible. Hockey comes first, and having a game in an atmosphere that many there grew up playing in would be a thrill of a lifetime for them.

Think I’m kidding about the quality of theaters in Winnipeg? Winnipeg’s MTC Centre recently received Royal designation by the Queen. That’s quite an honor to be given by the Queen, and places the MTC among a shortlist to have received such an honor.

You may be asking me, “Why would I care about theater when I’m attending a hockey event?” There are two reasons why. The first has to do with the possibility that you may be traveling with your significant other or family. They might be interested in more than just hockey. Winnipeg offers you a great night out. You can start with a nice dinner and then attend a high quality theater.

The second reason is that there is no reason why hockey fans aren’t able to also enjoy cultural events. New Yorkers love hockey and enjoy the some of the world’s best culture. Minnesotans love their hockey as well and they enjoy some of the best theater in the country. Why limit yourself? Enjoy everything that a city has to offer.

Winnipeg also has an annual winter festival called the Festival Du Voyageur, which is a 10-day event that occurs in February. If the Heritage Classic were to be held in February, they should consider holding it when the Festival Du Voyageur takes place. That would provide visitors to Winnipeg with another quality event to keep them busy.

The fact that February temperatures are conducive to an outdoor game, Winnipeggers love their hockey and its traditions, and the fact that Winnipeg has much more to offer than just hockey provides a good argument as to why the NHL should award a future Heritage Classic to the city of Winnipeg.

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