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Heritage Classic to celebrate Winnipeg hockey history

Jets, Oilers unveil jerseys, announce alumni rosters for Oct. 22-23 outdoor event

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets are a team with a seemingly bright future, but they will spend one October weekend looking back at their city's long hockey history.

The Jets will host the Edmonton Oilers outdoors at Investors Group Field on Oct. 23 in the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.

Many more Oilers and Jets players from the past will participate in an alumni game at the stadium, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, on Oct. 22. Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada will broadcast the alumni game live, as will the NHL Network in the United States.

The Jets will become the 22nd NHL team to skate in an outdoor game. The Oilers hosted the first NHL regular-season game played outdoors, in 2003 at Commonwealth Stadium against the Montreal Canadiens.

Several Winnipeg hockey dignitaries were present Friday at the iconic Portage and Main intersection in the city's downtown to announce the Jets and Oilers alumni rosters and to unveil the jerseys the teams will wear. Edmonton and Winnipeg share a hockey rivalry dating to 1972 in the World Hockey Association. The Oilers and the original Jets franchise joined the NHL in 1979.

Video: Jets host Oilers in the Heritage Classic this October

"Of all of the events that we could have landed, it was the one that allowed us to do a really proper and fulsome honoring of the Winnipeg Jets and their history," Jets executive chairman Mark Chipman said. "To me, this was by far the best way to celebrate the heritage of our hockey, and it has already exceeded my expectations of how it can do that."

Jets right wing Blake Wheeler attended the event, which attracted a typically large and vocal Winnipeg crowd.

"It's awesome," Wheeler said. "To be here in the middle of the summer, the kind of support that we get even now is incredible. Our fans are the best.

"Being a part of this game is going to be a really cool experience for us and for the city."

Former Edmonton defenseman Kevin Lowe, who is Oilers vice chairman and alternate governor, joined Winnipeg counterpart Dale Hawerchuk to announce each team's roster for the alumni game. Lowe and Hawerchuk each will be captain of his team.

Several players from the 1980s Oilers dynasty will participate, including Hockey Hall of Fame members Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr. They will be joined by Bill Ranford, Dwayne Roloson, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg, Marty McSorley, Dave Semenko, Kelly Buchberger, Ken Linseman, Craig MacTavish, Craig Simpson, Ryan Smyth, Esa Tikkanen and Blair MacDonald. Glen Sather and Ron Low will coach the Edmonton alumni.

"Pretty impressive," said goaltender Cam Talbot, who represented the present-day Oilers. "That will be a fun game to watch too."

Joining Hawerchuk will be former Jets Teemu Selanne, Thomas Steen, Teppo Numminen, Bob Essensa, Dave Babych, Dave Ellett, Mike Ford, Jim Kyte, Mario Marois, Moe Mantha, Tim Watters, Laurie Boschman, Mike Eagles, Kris King, Morris Lukowich, Andrew McBain, Brian Mullen, Darrin Shannon, Doug Smail and Ron Wilson. Tom McVie and Serge Savard will coach the Winnipeg alumni.

Said Chipman, "[The selection process] hasn't been an easy job for Dale. It's been fun to watch it come together. I think he has done a terrific job. I've talked with a few [alumni], and there is just such genuine excitement about coming back. It's shaping up to be a really fun experience for our community."

More players will be added at a later date.

"There are a lot of guys that want to play," Hawerchuk said. "We have a few spots yet. It has been fun reaching out to guys. It has been fun talking to people you haven't talked to in years as well."

The Jets unveiled a new white jersey for the main game that is based on their 1970s WHA jersey and logo. Edmonton will wear its present-day alternate jersey that was inspired by their inaugural WHA look in 1972-73.

Jets alumni will wear white 1980s-era jerseys, and the Oilers past greats will wear the team's current blue jerseys.

Portage and Main has a hockey history involving Hawerchuk and Bobby Hull, each a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hull signed a contract with the original WHA Jets at the intersection in 1972, and Hawerchuk signed his first contract at the site in 1981 when he was 18.

"I thought it was a really unique way to honor Dale and our community," Chipman said. "There is just something about the original brilliance of doing those signings down here that we thought we needed to respect. We wanted to wait for something very unique and special to do it, and this made the most amount of sense for us."

Said Hawerchuk, "You see the support, and it's exactly what I remembered back when I signed here, the support of the team in the middle of summer."

Come October, Wheeler expects another loud Winnipeg crowd.

"We're going to pack that house," Wheeler said. "It will be nice and loud."

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