From the ice-making to the fan experience, it takes a village to stage an event like the NHL’s Heritage Classic.
“The tentpole events are most important for the fans,” commissioner Gary Bettman said last week in Regina, in the leadup to Saturday’s 2019 Heritage Classic game.
“The sponsors like them because we give them programs and platforms to activate against. Tentpole events tend to be very big and very difficult, both logistically and financially, to execute. We’re grateful that our partners help us do that.”
In the 16 years since the first-ever Heritage Classic game was played at a chilly 0°F in front of more than 57,000 hearty fans in Edmonton, the National Hockey League has learned a thing or two about how to stage its stadium-sized outdoor events.
That institutional knowledge was put to good use last weekend, when more than 33,000 Western Canadian hockey fans watched the Winnipeg Jets beat the Calgary Flames, 2-1, in overtime at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The event was the NHL’s first true neutral-site game, which offered a unique opportunity to the league and its corporate partners.