Save some room on your calendars in late February or early March of 2016, hockey fans, for it’s all but a given the NHL’s Heritage Classic is coming to Winnipeg and Investors Group Field.
"I don’t see anything getting in the way, I really don’t," said Jets co-owner and True North chairman Mark Chipman Thursday during a media session outlining the NHL’s new realignment. "The conversations I’ve had with (NHL deputy commissioner) Bill (Daly) have been very positive. I think we’ve got a fantastic venue for it now I understand it has the capability of putting in additional seats to get a 40,000-seat venue. I think it would be spectacular to do something in late February, early March when the weather’s nice.
"It could be just a phenomenal event."
The Free Press reported last weekend that the Jets and the NHL are in negotiations to host a Heritage Classic here in 2016. The next Heritage Classic will likely be held in Vancouver in 2014. The Winter Classic would also remain in place and continue to be played on New Year’s Day.
Chipman and, obviously, the NHL have little doubt the outdoor game would be a huge hit here.
"The league has seen the reaction from this marketplace," said Chipman. "My understanding is they want to get into a cycle of having those games with some regularity because they’ve been so successful, both the Winter and the Heritage Classics have been very, very successful league properties and they’ve been very successful in their own right in the marketplace.
"We’re very interested. I’ve talked to Bill about it a couple of times. It’s preliminary, but I’m very hopeful we’ll be getting the Heritage very soon in the next cycle, once they establish it."
There has also been a suggestion the perfect opponent for the Jets would be the Minnesota Wild, given the proximity of their rival and the opportunity for their fans to travel north and possibly help fill the stadium. But Chipman believes the opponent wouldn’t matter.
"I think this market can handle it," Chipman said. "Minny would be a great team to have because certainly a lot of people would come up, but you could come up with any number of teams... it’s a Heritage Classic. It could be any of the Original Six teams, it could be a Canadian team... I think there are great options there."