As the start of the 2021-22 NHL season approaches, the league announced back in late June that there will be a 2022 Heritage Classic, but the NHL did not name a venue or a matchup at the time. While there have been some rumors in the past week that link the game to the Buffalo Sabres visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs, there still has been no official word on the rumors due to the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The only confirmed piece of information that has been given on the game is that it will be played in March.
Erasing all of the recent rumors and looking at the upcoming schedule, there are several games in the month of March between Canadian teams that would make for a great Heritage Classic. Two games that stand out in particular on the Canucks schedule that would make for an ideal Heritage Classic matchup are on March 5th when the Canucks travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs and on March 19th when the Flames come to Vancouver. Either one of these matchups would be a desirable game to put on display as all three of these teams are slated to have successful seasons.
I personally think that the most desirable game would be when the Canucks take on the Maple Leafs as both teams are full of young talent and both teams have big name stars on their rosters. It would also make the most sense to have both of those teams be in the Classic this year as the Canucks haven’t been apart of an outdoor game since hosting the 2014 Heritage Classic and the Maple Leafs have never been apart of the Heritage Classic, although they have played in three outdoor games.
The other half of the big question about the 2022 Heritage Classic is what venue would it be played in if the Canucks were to be selected as a participant? Last season’s NHL outdoor games played at Lake Tahoe had everyone’s minds going all over the place about where an outdoor game could take place. One of the many places most talked about last season was Lake Louise in Alberta’s scenic Banff National Park. Canucks fans, like myself, can dream of one day seeing them skate out for a game with that breath-taking landscape in the background, but in the near future, that seems unlikely unless COVID-19 prevents crowds from going to games again. Looking at a couple more realistic sites for a Canucks outdoor game this season given the potential matchups, let’s start with if the Canucks at Maple Leafs game was chosen.
In the past, Toronto has hosted an outdoor NHL game in their city once when they took on the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Centennial Classic. This game was held at BMO Field, home of the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC, in front of 40,148 fans. The NHL could very well play another outdoor game there as it was a huge success the first time. If the NHL wanted to switch up the venue to have a different look than last time, the other possible venue for the event would be Rodgers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. This would make for an unbelievable background for a hockey game as it is directly in downtown Toronto and the buildings of downtown Toronto are visible in the background of the stadium. If the NHL is to select the Canucks at Maple Leafs game for the Classic, this would likely be the top choice of where the game would be played at.
On the contrary, if the NHL were to select Vancouver as the site of the 2022 Heritage Classic by choosing the game on March 19th when the Calgary Flames come into town to face the Canucks, the only realistic venue that could host the game would be BC Place again. BC Place was the venue of the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic when the Canucks faced the Senators in front of 54,194 fans. While the NHL would prefer to have a different venue rather than return to one, there is no other realistic option in the Vancouver area. The closest stadium to the city of Vancouver viable to host a game other than BC Place would be Lumen Field in Seattle but that would not be an option as the Heritage Classic has always been played in a Canadian city. While BC Place might be an underwhelming selection due to the Classic already being played there, it would be an excellent venue to host the event just as it was in 2014.
While the chances of the Canucks being selected for the 2022 NHL Heritage Classic seem to be looking worse and worse with all of the rumors coming out, even if they are not a participant this year they should be highly considered for the year after. As the Canucks young core continues to grow, this is a team that will be fun to watch and a team that should be showcased in future NHL events.Embed from Getty Images