The Washington Capitals bucked a trend on Thursday, becoming just the second home team to win a Winter Classic. Since the Winter Classic was first held in 2008, the home team has won just twice, including the Caps recent win in Washington. While most teams prefer to play at their home arena and in front of their own fans during the regular season, it appears to be a disadvantage when it comes to the Winter Classic.
With family and friends in town and heightened media attention, Caps forward Eric Fehr said he understood how players could get caught up in the distractions.
“I think that’s the toughest thing to do, because you don’t see your friends and family often,” he said. “They’re coming in from out of town and they want you to entertain a little bit, but it’s business for us.”
Jay Beagle admitted that he disliked having to take a bus to the rink, saying it clashes with his usual routine of driving to the rink.
“It’s a home game, but it’s a weird routine,” he said. “It messes with the feel a little bit. This game’s going to be different.”
While it is the first Winter Classic for Washington coach Barry Trotz, he did have some advice for his players regarding remaining professional.
“One of the things that I have tried to do with our group is just make sure that — be pros about it,” he said. “We have got such great people that care about people and you want to take care of your families and you’re dealing with… and that becomes, for creatures of habit, which athletes are, it can be really distracting.”
He suggested his players make arrangements to ensure focus before the game.
“If your house is brimming with people and friends and family, then it would be a really good time to get a hotel room and get your rest.” Trotz said he stressed to his players the importance of remembering the two points on the line each game.
“We basically said, hey, if you want to be — we got to be pros about it…because I think that, at bottom line, this is such a spectacular event, but the bottom line for the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, these are big points in the standings,” he said. “And I know we can’t afford to give up any points to anybody.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, an outdoor game veteran with trips to two Winter Classics and one NHL Stadium Series game, preached focus to his players.
“I know the setting, it might get you a little bit off focus or your mind might be wandering about, wow, is this cool or what, knowing that, hey, you got to play the right way, got to do the right things to put yourself in a position to win the game,” he said.
“But we have had some guys that played on a lot of big stages and a lot of big settings and this is one of them. So I think their focus and their preparation shouldn’t be unusual,” Quenneville said.