Winnipeg Heritage Classic between Jets, Oilers could offer best of old and new
In the afterglow of Sunday's announcement that the Winnipeg Jets will host the Edmonton Oilers in the Heritage Classic this October, most of the cuddling was around players like Dale Hawerchuk and Wayne Gretzky.
Two Hall of Fame centres, most deserving of the attention. You already know the individual accomplishments. You know the history.
It's why the particulars of the alumni game between the Jets and the Oilers, which is scheduled to be a part of the outdoor hockey festivities at Investors Group Field on Oct. 22-23 next season, raised such a commotion over the weekend.
Hawerchuk will captain the alumni Jets, of course, while the inclusion of Gretzky, the alumni Oilers captain, instantly gives the game an international presence and an instant league-wide buzz.
The alumni teams will wear jerseys from the 1980s and as the game approaches, there's no doubt people will wax poetic about those old Smythe Division battles, completely ignoring the fact that Winnipeg did not fare especially great in most of those matchups.
Rewriting the past is part of being a sports fan, though, so it can be excused. Are we done pushing that big Blue and Orange hump the old Jets couldn't get over 30 years ago deep down into the cellar of our collective recollection?
Memories, both good and bad, are still memories. And besides, based on the positive response Sunday, it appears this city has made peace with those old Oilers-induced letdowns.
We have, right?
Hello, are you still there?
While the alumni celebration and the various spinoff topics around it will remain a major point of interest for hockey fans leading up to the event (what will the jerseys look like, who should be there, who will coach — the debates will be endless), somewhat lost in Sunday's news was the fact that both the modern day editions of the Jets and Oilers will carry some impressive star power of their own.
Current star power
Give the kids some love, too.
One day you'll see Gretzky and Hawerchuk twirling around on the outdoor surface at Investors Group Field. The next day it will be Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele. Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne will make way for Taylor Hall and Nikolaj Ehlers. The Oilers don't have a defenceman who can match up with Paul Coffey (at least not yet, anyway) but Dustin Byfuglien should help take care of any looked-for blue-line offensive dynamics.
We haven't even mentioned Blake Wheeler, Jacob Trouba, Leon Draisaitl or Jordan Eberle.
It's actually weird how things could line up for the two games.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and then. While it would surprise few if the Jets sat on their hands and did nothing to address the issues of this disappointing season, the Oilers are expected to make some major changes to their roster. It won't be McDavid going anywhere. It probably won't be Hall, either.
Best of both worlds
So the Heritage Classic could be the best of both worlds for the local hockey fan.
The alumni game will recall a time when the Jets would take on the mighty Oilers, when everyone could smoke in the Winnipeg Arena and when Chi-Chi's was still a thing.
And the actual NHL game will be a glimpse into what the future holds and the promise of better days for both franchises. Or at least that's the hope.
Either way, Sunday's announcement was a good opportunity for fans of both teams to live in the past or to imagine what the future is going to be like because at the moment, there's not much going on.
Back to reality: Winnipeg lost to Edmonton 2-1 Sunday night to drop its record to 27-33-5 (59 points), good for 27th overall in the league. Edmonton is 28th overall.
Oh brother. That's not good.
Where are those old hockey cards? It might be time to flip through them again.
The Jets next see action Tuesday, when the Nashville Predators pay a visit. The game will be indoors.