Junior hockey history is going to be made in Wood Buffalo as Fort McMurray will host the first outdoor junior hockey game in North America*. The game between the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and the Drayton Valley Thunder will be played on Friday, November 26 at 7 pm on a regulation sheet of ice constructed on MacDonald Island. In addition to being the first official junior hockey game played under the stars, the event will strive to break the AJHL attendance record.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to put our community on the national stage," said Sheldon Germain, Northern Classic Chair. "We have shown time and time again that we have an incredible capacity to do great things. Creating hockey history and gathering the largest hockey crowd in support of our Oil Barons will send a strong message about the big spirit of our region."
The challenge of constructing a regulation junior hockey rink at a time of year when cold weather is not a certainty has been embraced by the organizing committee. "We have received great support from a number of partners who will enable us to build an amazing outdoor facility including a refrigerated ice surface to guarantee the game will happen no matter the temperature," said Tim Reid, Vice Chair, Events. "Commitments have already been made for the donations of rink boards, temporary bleachers and engineering expertise. NHL ice‐making legend, Dan Craig, will be supervising the installation of the ice and mentoring local ice makers to ensure that the knowledge stays in the region."
The Northern Classic has been strategically scheduled for the Friday of Grey Cup week activities taking place in Edmonton this year. "We see this as a perfect opportunity to invite a group of national media representatives to our community on the quietest day of the football festivities in the capital," said Andrew Boutilier, Vice Chair, Hockey Operations. "What a great chance to get a positive Wood Buffalo story on the news and sports channels that broadcast into communities from coast to coast. This is our time. This is our home. This is our game!"
"The Alberta Junior Hockey League is ecstatic for the opportunity to have its players and teams participate in this historic event," said AJHL President Craig T. Cripps. "The Fort McMurray Oil Barons continue to set new standards in every aspect of their organization, and the Northern Classic will be a phenomenal event for the team, League and community."
* The NAHL has the honor of the first outdoor junior game
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)