REGINA, Saskatchewan –– The rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets will go beyond the ice at the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
The game Oct. 26 at Mosaic Stadium here in Saskatchewan’s capital will be a battle over allegiances in the Canadian province situated between Calgary, 450 miles to the west in Alberta, and Winnipeg, 340 miles to the east in Manitoba.
“We joked that we didn’t have the UFC face-to-face (weigh-in),” said Flames president and COO John Bean, who attended a press conference with Jets executive chairman Mark Chipman at Mosaic Stadium on Friday. “But everyone knows that there are so many great people that grow up in Saskatchewan that have migrated to Alberta, so we do genuinely think that this is going to feel like a home crowd.”
Bean said that the Flames ownership group over the years has included Saskatchewanians such as the Seaman family (Byron, Daryl), the McCaig family (Bud, Jeffrey) and current chairman Murray Edwards, who was born and raised in Regina.
The Flames’ current vice chairman and CEO, Ken King, is from Hanley, Saskatchewan.
“Notwithstanding that we’re officially the visiting team for this game, we are, without hesitation, considering the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic a home game for the Calgary Flames,” Bean said.
Mosaic Stadium, which opened in 2017, is home to the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. It seats 33,350 in its football configuration. When the Heritage Classic becomes a focus at the stadium early in the 2019-20 NHL season, Regina and Saskatchewan sports fans may feel compelled to choose sides if they don’t already cheer for the Flames or Jets.
The rivalries they know best are in the CFL, where the passion for their Roughriders runs particularly hot when they play the Calgary Stampeders or Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (The Flames and Stampeders are owned by Calgary Sports and Entertainment.)
Bean, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, understands the local sporting rivalries well.
“Being from Saskatchewan and living in Alberta poses a dilemma from time to time,” he said. “When the Roughriders play against the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, almost half the crowd is wearing green (Saskatchewan’s uniform color). In this day of political correctness, we loyal Saskatchewan transplants like to say that when it comes to sport in Calgary, we are red on the outside and green on the inside.
“I know we have so many Flames fans in Saskatchewan and it will be an exciting time to share the outdoor-game experience with them. For one day only, we hope to have a sea of red in Regina and we all know we’re still green on the inside.”
Saskatchewan is part of the local television broadcast regions for the Flames, Jets and Edmonton Oilers.
Chipman said the Heritage Classic will be marked by divided loyalties.
“I think we both lay claim to this territory,” Chipman said. “I don’t know that either one of us can claim that we have the upper hand.
“The Bombers-Riders rivalry is really intense, and I don’t know how the people in Saskatchewan feel about the Jets in that regard. I haven’t thought about it a lot, but I expect it’ll be split pretty much down the middle. That would be my guess.”
Chipman said that fans at Mosaic Stadium are in for a remarkable experience because of the grandness of the Heritage Classic event and also because it will be a regular-season NHL game between two teams based in Western Canada.
“I expect there will be a lot of intensity,” Chipman said. “… With these outdoor games, there’s lots of pageantry but they’re real games. And I think it’s really, really smart to have teams that are accustomed to playing one another, so it ought to be a great one.
“It (Mosaic Stadium) has got a great feel. This game’s in October and it’s going to feel like a football game on ice in some respects.”
Bean said he’s certain the event will be memorable.
“All of Saskatchewan are passionate hockey fans,” he said. “We all grew up playing the game. We all had frozen feet, played on outdoor rinks and our dads rubbed our feet to get them thawing out, so there’s no doubt the passion is here. The fans are passionate about all sports and they’re really proud of their community, so I think this is going to be a knock-it-out-the-park event.”
Tickets for the game go on sale on Ticketmaster.ca and Ticketmaster.com on April 25 at 10 a.m. CT.