An homage to the outdoor game

When hockey heads outdoors these days, it comes with plenty of doubts.

Fans seem to still love it, while pundits tend to suggest the market has been oversaturated.

Players always look like they’re having a great time unless you’re Roberto Luongo on the bench during the 2014 Heritage Classic.

This weekend, the WHL will be hitting the ice outside, hosting the 2019 Prairie Classic in Regina. The Calgary Hitmen and Regina Pats will play at Mosiac Stadium Sunday, one day after the Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

Red Deer’s own Tye Carriere will suit up for the Hitmen while former Rebel Austin Pratt is the captain for the Pats.

It’s the third time the league has hosted an outdoor game, with the Spokane Chiefs and Kootenay Ice playing the first one in 2011. Later that year, the Pats and Hitmen hooked up at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. It was one of the highest attended games in WHL history.

For all the complaints about the weather, ice conditions or level of play, outdoor games are always a memorable experience.

I went to the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. and it was an unbelieve experience. For the over 110,000 people at that game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, I’m sure most would say the same thing.

So what if the play is a little sloppy, or it’s a bit cold. The nostalgia that comes from bringing the game outside should be enough of a draw for everyone to put aside their Sunday plans and check out the game.

As for the Prairie Classic, ticket sales have not gone so well. They’ve only sold about 6,000 for the game, despite it coming in a relatively modest price point of $18.50.

Any time I’ve been to a game outside, you can’t help but be warmed up by the smiles of the fans or players and the joy that there that comes from watching the game return to its roots.

So, while Regina might be a bit of a hike for hockey fans this weekend, you’ve always got a chance to attend some outdoor hockey right here at home.

The Tommy Gun’s Outdoor Winter Classic goes every year in late January at the outdoor rink just down bower mall and even if it’s blisteringly cold, it always looks like a good time.

Friday Rebels Game Notes:

The Red Deer Rebels will host the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday night at 7 p.m. Seattle is 3-4-2-1 on the year and sit fifth in the U.S. Division. Import forwards Andrej Kukuca (4G, 6A) of Slovakia and D Simon Kubicek (2G, 6A) of the Czech Republic lead the way for the Thunderbirds.

Henry Rybinski and goalie Roddy Ross were picked in this year’s NHL draft, by Florida (fifth round) and the Philadelphia Flyers (sixth round) respectively. Ross was at Rebels rookie camp in 2016. He’s in his second year with Seattle and has a 3-3-2 record with a goals-against of 3.00 and save percentage of .914. Seattle also has three former Rebels on the roster, forward Alex Morozoff, as well as defencemen Hunter Donohoe and Ryan Gottfried.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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