Download NHL Heritage Classic - A November to Remember (French
Esks, Oilers ... what a party!
There have been Novembers to remember. But name a November to remember like the one we now have in Edmonton.
Of all the occasions to toast titles in Canada's Titletown, of all chances to celebrate in the City of Champions, there's never been one like this before. There's never been a celebration combining the latest and the greatest of Edmonton championship teams.
This week, by happy circumstance, Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton glory gang and Ricky Ray and his Grey Cup-title team have been thrown together to share a city and to celebrate championships of then and now.
The Oilers have invited the Eskimos to a meeting today to make arrangements for the football team to be cheered by 55,000 fans in their own Commonwealth Stadium as part of the Heritage Classic.
"We've been invited to a meeting to do something as part of the event,'' said Rick LeLacheur, the man who suddenly finds himself 1-0 as COO of the team which defeated the Montreal Alouettes in the 91st Grey Cup game Sunday in Regina.
"It's a very nice gesture to showcase this championship team in our home stadium in an event the world will be watching. They have a lot to fit into their package, but it's nice to be invited to be made part of it all.''
The Esks' Grey Cup is what you might call value added to the celebration of the Oilers team, which won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons and the Montreal team which won 24, facing each other in the first outdoor game in the history of the NHL.
That's three of Canada's most fabled franchises - with 41 Cups between them - being celebrated at the same time and place.
If the mood and attitude of the city wasn't already over the moon, what happened Sunday punted it the rest of the way as we make the transition from the Grey Cup to the phenomenon of the Heritage Classic, which so caught the imagination of the nation, it become a tougher ticket than any Grey Cup game ever played.
Now, instead of a weekend celebration, this will be a weeklong celebration.
Players have been known to complain about the pressure and expectations of playing pro sports in this town. But when you win, ask Gretzky and gang, there are few more wonderful places.
Of the 12 Grey Cups and five Stanley Cups this city has celebrated, none have been the same. There have been parades on several different routes - public stage celebrations at City Hall, Commonwealth Stadium and Skyreach Centre.
This one will combine them all.
Today the Eskimos will be part of the first outdoor-indoor parade in history. It'll be the first time the ceremonies will be held in a food court, continued six hours later at an NHL hockey game and then capped off five days later at the world's only outdoor NHL game.
Today is the parade and it will not follow "the usual route.''
JUST THE 'USUAL ROUTE'
It did in Montreal. When the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, the media release is short and simple. "Parade. Tuesday. 11:30 a.m. Usual route.''
This parade may follow the most unusual route that has ever been put together to celebrate a championship in any sport.
You'd have to win about a dozen Grey Cups in a row for anybody to remember the twists and turns of this one if it ever became "the usual route.''
The team will be honoured at a special reception and brunch at the Hotel Macdonald, from where the outdoor section of the parade will originate.
Down Jasper Avenue to 104 Street. Up to 102 Avenue. East on 102. South on 101st. Back to Jasper Avenue. Indoors at Commerce Place. The parade on the pedway will proceed to ManuLife Place then to City Centre West and to the food court where mass of tables will be removed and thousands can watch the ceremonies from all the levels overlooking over the area.
The reason for the food court is Winston Churchill Square is under reconstruction, taking City Hall out of play. The ceremonies will be followed by a massive autograph session at both City Centre West and East. Then it's off to the Oiler game aganst the Chicago Blackhawks at Skyreach Centre, where they'll be cheered by 16,839 fans.
Then the party, which includes three days of the Spirit of Edmonton Grey Cup show at the Westin Hotel. You can't win Grey Cups and be part of the party. But this team can come home and be part of this one.
The Heritage Classic was going to be an event to be celebrated as something special in Canadian sports history. But now that the Esks have validated the City of Champions sign outside of town again and crashed the party, it's extra special.