Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little will be keeping his own diary throughout the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic. The outdoor game against the Calgary Flames will be played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, CITY, TVAS2, NHL.TV). He will check in regularly this week with behind-the-scenes access.
The 31-year-old, the No. 12 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, is in his 13th season with the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers. He has 517 points (215 goals, 302 assists) in 838 NHL games.
In his first entry, Little writes about not being able to play in the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic between the Jets and Edmonton Oilers at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, and how excited he is to finally get the chance to play in an NHL outdoor game.
WINNIPEG -- I have been thinking about the Heritage Classic a lot.
In 2016, I missed the opportunity to play in that one here when I was going through some bad injury luck, injured my knee in the first period of the first game of the season that year and missed 23 games. It's one of the first things I thought of that year when it happened, that I'd be out for the outdoor game. It still bugs me a bit because it was in Winnipeg and I thought it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So to get another chance to play in one, I am pretty excited about that.
In the last preseason game in September this year, I got injured (concussion) and I missed the first nine games of the season but I had a feeling it wasn't going to last that long, so thankfully I made it back.
In 2016, I was still in the early stages of that recovery. The Heritage Classic that year was 10 days after I was injured. I put on my full equipment and the Heritage jersey for our team picture and then our trainers wouldn't let me on the ice. But I remember sneaking on the ice at the stadium for the family skate. One of the trainers saw me and asked me what the heck I was doing out there but I told him it was good enough to glide around, even if my knee was pretty sore. I don't think they were happy, but I only stayed out on the ice for a little bit.
I have never played an organized game outdoors. I can't even remember the last time I was on an outdoor pond or rink. I think it was one with the team in 2014 when we skated on the Assiniboine River at The Forks here in Winnipeg, but that was a really cold day in the middle of winter quite a while ago.
I'm sure this one's going to be quite a bit different than that and I am so looking forward to it. It's going to be a pretty cool atmosphere. I don't know too much about Mosaic Stadium but I've heard it's really nice and fairly new. The biggest thing we're thinking about is the weather, because you could get anything.
I've watched quite a few outdoor games on TV and you can have rain, snow, cold, warm, but what we're hearing is that the only potential problem this time is wind. I have no idea what that will feel like, backchecking in a gust of wind, but I think I heard if it's real windy, we'll switch ends halfway through the third period, which makes a lot of sense. I think I'd prefer to feel the tail wind at my back.
We've been breaking in equipment for the game, some new stuff with our Heritage Classic colors, but they give us lots of time and the equipment is mostly the same stuff, same colors we used with the 2016 Heritage Classic game and my stuff is pretty broken in. That's good because I'm pretty picky. I like my stuff really broken in, where some guys like their stuff to be more new. But we've had a couple of practices with it.
We've got a couple of practices here at home before we go to Regina and I'm looking forward to our outdoor practice on Friday. We'll get a good feel for it, just to skate at the stadium, maybe get to see how much the wind might be a factor and what the rink feels like.
My parents are coming out to Regina from Ontario and my brother is coming from Edmonton with his girlfriend. They didn't make it to the last one, changed their mind at the last second because I wasn't playing, so they're pretty excited about this one. I'm hoping they'll get to Regina on time Friday for the family skate. It would be pretty cool to do that with them, and I think they'll enjoy that.