Winnipeg has been long-rumored to be the next Canadian city in line for an outdoor contest, and Manitoba’s capital could be hosting a game as early as October 2016.
According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, the Jets will host an outdoor at Investors Group Field, the home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, next season. While the announcement of the game hasn’t been made, Shannon also reported the potential opponent for the Jets would be the Edmonton Oilers.
That could mean the contest is given the Heritage Classic tag, but it would be the earliest in the season the Canadian-based outdoor game has happened. Previously, the Heritage Classic was held as early as Nov. 22, but that was all the way back in 2003 when the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens squared off at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in what was just the fourth outdoor game in NHL history.
Originally, an outdoor was expected to be played in Winnipeg this season, but plans fell through. During the 2016 Winter Classic in Boston, though, Bettman made it clear that an outdoor game was coming Winnipeg’s way.
"We do owe Winnipeg a game,” Bettman told Sportsnet’s Scott Oake during the broadcast. “We would’ve been there last year but the Grey Cup and some complications."
If the Oilers are the Jets’ opponent, it would be a fitting adversary for the game. Winnipeg’s history with Edmonton dates all the way back to the inaugural World Hockey Association season and the original Jets. In the last Avco Cup final in 1979, the Jets defeated the Oilers 4-2 in the best-of-seven series. It was Winnipeg’s third Avco Cup in the WHA’s seven seasons of existence.
Both the Oilers and Jets came over to the NHL when several WHA teams joined the bigger league, and the rivalry between Winnipeg and Edmonton grew further during the 1980s. During Edmonton’s most successful years, the Jets were a common playoff rival, crossing paths with the Oilers five times in a six-year span between 1983 and 1989.