For the NHL, a flight of fancy from a group of beer drinkers provided the impetus for the outdoor-game boom that has shaped the past decade for the League.
Patrick LaForge, who as the president and chief operating officer of the Edmonton Oilers, was one of the driving forces behind the League's first regular-season outdoor game, the 2003 Heritage Classic played at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 22. His idea, sketched out on a flight back to Edmonton, found its roots in a survey of Molson customers.
The game, played on a brutally cold day in the City of Champions featured the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It was preceded by a Legends Game that proved to be one of the most memorable alumni games in the history of the sport, if not all sports.
The successes of that day, which spawned the outdoor-game boom to follow, provided the blue print for a series of Winter Classic games beginning in 2003. It also spawned another Heritage Classic, in Calgary in 2011, as well as one to be played in 2014 in Vancouver. The four-game Stadium Series to be played in three different venues during the 2013-14 season is also a linear descendant of the audacious plan by the Edmonton Oilers to take the game back outside to its roots.
With the 10-year anniversary of the landmark event looming next week, as well as the approaching 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., coming into focus, NHL.com revisited the magical spectacle in Edmonton that forever altered the course of the National Hockey League and hockey in general.
In this Sunday Long Read, 25 different individuals involved with the day share their memories of a game -- and a spectacle -- that proved to be beyond the strongest imaginations at the time.