10-25 Nazem Kadri CGY Heritage classic feature

Nazem Kadri knows outdoor hockey.

The center will play his fifth NHL outdoor game when the Calgary Flames face the Edmonton Oilers in the 2023 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, TBS, MAX).

Only seven others have played more. James van Riemsdyk has played seven, and Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Evgeni Malkin, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each has played six. (Seven others have played five.)

"Pretty cool," said Kadri, 33. "Makes me feel a little bit old, but hey, man, I'll take it. It's always a pleasure to have a game with this magnitude and just the uniqueness of it."

No matter how many NHL outdoor games you play, each is different and special, as Kadri can attest perhaps better than anyone else. He has played in front of the largest crowd to watch an NHL game and the smallest; in stadiums and on a golf course next to a lake; in snow and cold and wind and sun.

He said his favorite probably was his first. He was with the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 3-2 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2014. It snowed and was 13 degrees Fahrenheit at face-off. An NHL record crowd of 105,491 packed Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, split between red and blue.

"Two Original Six teams," Kadri said. "I think that one had a lot of great tradition and history. It meant a lot for both teams, and obviously the venue was incredible. We had over 100,000 fans, something we might not see again. It was cool."

Kadri played for the Maple Leafs in a 5-4 overtime win against the Red Wings in the Centennial Classic on Jan. 1, 2017, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NHL. It was 37 degrees at face-off with a crowd of 40,148 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.

He scored for the Maple Leafs in a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in the NHL Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. Wind was a factor leading up to the game, and it was 42 degrees at face-off for the 29,516 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The field looked like the deck of an aircraft carrier, complete with a model fighter jet.

See through Day 6 of the rink build in Commonwealth Stadium

Then there was the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20, 2021. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the League staged two outdoor games with no fans for television on a golf course on the lakeshore in Stateline, Nevada. Kadri played for the Colorado Avalanche in the first game, a 3-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights. It was 34 degrees at face-off at noon PT, but the game was delayed by sun after the first period and resumed with temperatures in the 20s in the dark at 9 p.m. PT.

"It's always a fun adventure, the outdoor destinations, more so the magnitude around the actual game," Kadri said. "Once you drop the puck, it seems like just another ordinary game besides the wind and the sun and kind of battling the weather aspect. But yeah, man, it's great."

This will be Kadri's first Heritage Classic and the 20th anniversary of the NHL's first modern outdoor game, a 4-3 win for the Montreal Canadiens against the Oilers before 57,167 at the same stadium Nov. 22, 2003.

The Heritage Classic celebrates hockey's outdoor roots in Canada in particular. Growing up in London, Ontario, Kadri was like so many Canadian kids, with a backyard rink. Some of his buddies went all-out with their backyard rinks, with boards, netting, everything.

"They'd even throw some paint on the ice," Kadri said. "It wasn't, like, any Picasso by any means. It was more so the idea. It made it feel extra special. It's something that I'll never forget."

It was as wholesome as hockey gets.

"We'd always pick up some shinny games and have some hot chocolate after," Kadri said. "You'd talk about whose house you were going to next week and kind of plan it all out, map out the teams and the format, as kids. That's kind of what these outdoor games do, is bring that little kid out again."

This also will be the first time the Battle of Alberta will be played outdoors, and the largest crowd to see a game in the rivalry.

"It's epic," Kadri said. "Of course, a lot of history and tradition, and any time you have that it makes a good recipe for a rivalry. Any time both teams are competitive also, I think it kind of adds a little fuel to the fire, and that's exactly what we're seeing now. It's a great time for the Battle of Alberta."

The Flames would love to win in Edmonton. They lost to the Oilers 4-1 in the Western Conference Second Round in 2022, then went 1-2-0 against them last season and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by two points.

Kadri is 3-1-0 in NHL outdoor games. The forecast is partly cloudy with a high of 37.

"Let's keep it rolling," he said. "Hopefully the weather holds up and it's a beautiful day and we can have some fun."

Nazem Kadri outdoor games

Location (Attendance)
Kadri G-A-P / SOG / rating
2014 Winter Classic
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan (105,491)
TOR 3, DET 2 (SO)
0-0-0 / 2 / minus-1
2017 Centennial Classic
Exhibition Stadium, Toronto (40,148)
0-0-0 / 6 / plus-1
2018 Stadium Series
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland (29,516)
WSH 5, TOR 2
1-0-1 / 3 / even
NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe
Edgewood Tahoe Resort, Stateline, Nevada (0)
COL 3, VGK 2
0-0-0 / 6 / minus-1

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