Hockey fans unite on neutral ground at Heritage Classic in Regina

Hockey fans of all stripes have been breaking the ice at festivities leading up to the 2019 Heritage Classic in Regina.

It’s the first of its kind to be played on neutral ice, with hometown fans from Winnipeg and Calgary travelling to support their teams in the outdoor game.

“It will be fun to see the mix of the crowd — ‘go Flames go’ chants, ‘go Jets go’ chants,” said Flames fan Josh Breuer, who drove in with his wife from Calgary Friday.

The couple was among the dozens of people who lined up early Saturday morning for Canada’s largest hockey card trade event at Mosaic Stadium.

READ MORE: How much ketchup will be consumed at Saturday’s outdoor Heritage Classic in Regina?

Eight-year-old Jackson Bray from Balgonie, Sask., attended the event with his hockey teammate, Austin Nesbitt.

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“I just started trading cards this year and Austin has done it for a year maybe and I wanted to know what it’s like so I started collecting them,” Bray said.

The young fan was busy —  marking down trades, organizing cards and even bending the ear of Winnipeg Jets general manager, Ken Cheveldayoff. Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving was also on hand, taking time to speak with fans.

Veteran collector Matt Leblanc said the event was a large-scale offering of what already takes place in local Tim Hortons coffee shops.

“It’s really good because there’s a community in Regina that collects cards and you get to have some fun trading,” said Leblanc, who came with his son to score some special cards.

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“We have a main set that we do together every year and then we have a second set that’s his set that he can take to school.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon native to officiate Heritage Classic in Regina

While some fans bonded over hockey cards, others came for a game weekend experience.

Charter Chen and his high school buddies drove six hours from Winnipeg to cheer on the Jets.

“I get to spend quality time with my best friends and we’ve been Jets fans since we were little kids,” Chen said.

“We dream about them winning the cup and Heritage Classic – we’re just having a great time.”

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At the official Heritage Classic pre-game tailgate, fans of all ages created a mosaic of red, blue – and some Saskatchewan green.

Dozens of hockey activities, photo booths and vendors were set up just outside the stadium, in Confederation Park, for the free non-ticketed event.

“This is about more than just hockey. This is about community building and actually just a passion for sport,” said Tim Reid, president and CEO of Regina Exhibition LTD.

“So many hours of planning and people involved and so much just time and energy have gone into making this happen so it’s pretty special.”

READ MORE: Mosaic Stadium begins flipping football field into NHL rink for Heritage Classic

The fan festival resumes Sunday starting at 10 a.m., during the pre-game for the WHL Prairie Classic.

The Regina Pats take on the Calgary Hitmen at 2 p.m. local time.

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