After plenty of speculation and unconfirmed reports regarding the status of the NHL's 2015 Winter Classic, it was confirmed on Saturday that the Washington Capitals will host the event, according to the team's official Twitter account:
The announcement has been a long time coming, noted Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, as the Capitals were promised by commissioner Gary Bettman that they would receive an opportunity to host the game after participating against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011.
Katie Carrera of the Washington Post gave us these quotes from NHL COO John Collins:
NHL COO John Collins acknowledges how early this announcement is vs previous years. League still in early planning stages. #Caps— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
Collins glad to get ahead on announcing Classic. Said NHL staff will start visiting potential venues in the next month. #Caps— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
Collins complemented Nats Park as possibility w/ desirable location. But noted ballparks, while a more intimate setting, has smaller crowds.— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
Collins said the league will take cues from Leonsis/#Caps on prioritizing where to host the game. District vs neighboring states.— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
While the Jan. 1, 2015 date of the game is in place, little else is known at this time. No opponent has been determined, and it is unclear where the event will take place. According to LeBrun, a few venues are being considered, including Nationals Park, RFK Stadium and FedEx Field.
Is Washington a good choice to host the 2015 Winter Classic?
Several factors have pushed back the Capitals' bid over the past couple years, including last year's lockout. The Detroit Red Wings were supposed to host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. last season, but it was canceled and will be played on New Year's Day 2014 instead.
Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington, gave us Caps owner Ted Leonsis' thoughts on the decision:
“The league believes we can support it,” Leonsis said. "So let’s make it official: We’ll be hosting the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2015.”
Leonsis said the opponent and venue will be announced at a later date, adding he wants to see “a sea of red” on Jan. 1, 2015.
“We are extremely excited to host the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and bring this great event to the D.C. area,” Leonsis said. “Our great fan base deserves to experience the magnificence of an outdoor game. We are thrilled to once again be part of this great event.”
By the time Washington hosts the Winter Classic in 2015, the NHL will have staged six official Winter Classic games. Washington will be the southernmost city to host one, but there is no indication that the league is concerned about weather potentially not cooperating.
Hosting the Winter Classic will be major coup for a city that has really embraced its hockey team over the past several years, and it will provide the NHL with an opportunity to showcase one of its biggest stars in the form of Alexander Ovechkin.
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