Bridgestone and the NHL’s annual Winter Classic has become a must-see event for sports fans. For the first time, the league is taking the yearly hockey showcase below the Mason-Dixon line for an outdoor game in the Nation’s semi-southern Capital. Read below for Winter Classic scouting reports, obscure stats and other tips to help you navigate and enjoy the 2015 Winter Classic
Scouting the Blackhawks
Led by captain Jonathan Toews and the team’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane (18 goals, 21 assists), the Hawks are consistently among the league’s elite since winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. Currently second in points in the league with 50, Chicago’s +38 goal differential, as well as their penalty kill, are tops in the league. The Blackhawks have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 outings and have lost only two regulation games since November 26. Toews, Kane and the Hawks lost their first Winter Classic on home ice in 2009, but won a snowy outdoor matchup against the Penguins last March at Soldier Field in Chicago for the NHL’s Stadium Series.
Scouting the Capitals
After floundering in mediocrity for the first two months of the season, Washington has gone on an 8-2-2 tear so far in December, beating top teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins along the way. Goalie Braden Holtby started all 12 games of the Caps scorching streak and Washington’s success is largely attributable to the 25-year-old’s poise in net. Alexander Ovechkin is thriving under Barry Trotz and the Capitals power play is currently fifth in the league, converting at a rate of 23.8%. Center Nicklas Backstrom leads Washington with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists). The Caps are 1-0 against Chicago this year after defeating the Hawks, 3-2, at the United Center on November 7.
Whether you are a local or just in town for the Winter Classic, chances are you will use the city’s metro system to ferry to and from the game … and likely any museums, monuments or restaurants you are visiting over the holiday. Take the Green line toward Branch Avenue to reach Nationals Park, which is just steps from the Navy Yard station. The Capitol South station, accessible from the Orange, Blue and Silver lines, is also nearby. New Year’s Day the Metro will run a Sunday schedule, with the first trains leaving at 7 a.m. Visit WMATA’s website for more information on maps, schedules and fares. Purchase a SmarTrip card to make your trips easier and less expensive.
If you do prefer to drive, click here for parking information.
Opening at 9 a.m., the GEICO Spectator Plaza, held at The Fairgrounds outside the Center Field Gate at Nationals Park, will offer a festival-like atmosphere for hockey fans. Washington Capitals alumni will be available to sign autographs and Washington’s mascot, Slapshot, will be available along with the Red Rockers to take pictures. Party Like It’s, a D.C.-based Ska cover band, will entertain the crowd with a mix of current and classic songs. Food Network personality and Baltimore native Duff Goldman will also make an appearance to offer something sweet. Fans will have the opportunity to have their faces painted, shoot pucks into old washing machines and dryers, play virtual slap shot and other hockey video games, dress up as Capitals or Blackhawks in gear provided by Reebok-CCM, and enter for the chance to win prizes and giveaways. Food, beverages, and Winter Classic merchandise will also be available at the Spectator Plaza.
While in town for the Winter Classic, be sure to take advantage of D.C.’s many world-class (and free) Smithsonian museums and national monuments. Both the National Christmas Tree and Capitol Christmas Tree will remain lit through New Year’s Day. D.C. has two outdoor ice skating rinks. The Washington Harbour Ice Rink in Georgetown is bigger than the rink outside of New York’s Rockefeller Center, while the skating rink at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden is central to several Smithsonian museums and the National Mall. If you’re more of a food tourist, the deliciously greasy fare at Ben’s Chili Bowl, massive cupcakes at Baked and Wired, homemade pop tarts and boozy milkshakes at Ted’s Bulletin or upscale Indian cuisine at Rasika are all worth trying. Old Ebbitt Grill is a D.C. institution, as is the historic Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, where you can indulge in seasonal cocktails.
Whether you’re watching at home, in a bar or at Nats Stadium, impress friends and family with your outdoor hockey knowledge.
The NHL’s first regular season outdoor game took place on November 22, 2003. The Oilers faced off against the Canadiens in Edmonton in bitter temperatures close to -22 Fahrenheit with wind chill. Montreal won 4-3.
The Winter Classic has been hard on home teams. Five out of six road teams – including the Washington Capitals in 2011 – have won the Winter Classic. Boston was the only team to win at home, squashing the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010.
Because of warm and rainy weather in Pittsburgh, the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field between the Penguins at Capitals was the first and only Winter Classic to be played at night. The game was rescheduled from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Three out of six Winter Classics have gone past regulation, with Pittsburgh and Toronto winning in shootouts in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and Boston winning in overtime in 2010.
The first ever fight at a Winter Classic occurred on New Year’s Day 2010, when the Flyer’s Daniel Carcillo squared off against the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton at Fenway Park in Boston.
The first three years of the Winter Classic (2008, 2009 and 2010) saw a peculiar trend as the road teams in each of those outdoor games – the Penguins, Red Wings and Flyers – followed their appearances in the Winter Classic by losing in the Stanley Cup Final.