D.C. preps for 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

With less than a month until the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic comes to town, Washington, D.C., is preparing to host hockey’s biggest names such as Toews, Kane, Hossa, Backstrom and Ovechkin.

Come Dec. 15, Nationals Park will begin the transition from baseball diamond to hockey rink when the official build starts for the showdown between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks. Approximately 61,000 square feet of armor decking will be installed in order to protect the field from the world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit traveling all the way from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. After the ice pans and dasher board are installed, the ice making will begin. Workers will create a nearly two-inch thick ice surface at Nationals Park for some of the world’s best hockey players to perform on come New Year’s day.

On Dec. 31, the Capitals and the Blackhawks will take the ice for the first time at Nationals Park for team practices and family skates as the NHL Network and NHL.com will provide full coverage of the team skates throughout the day.

A free fan festival will be held on game day from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET. The Spectator Plaza presented by GEICO will be held at the Fairgrounds outside the Center Field Gate at Nationals Park with hockey-themed attractions, music and fun for all ages.

On Friday, Dec. 5, the NHL and the Capitals will unveil a refurbished street hockey rink in Southeast Washington, D.C., as part of the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Legacy Initiative. Located at the Watkins Elementary School and Recreation Center, Watkins Rush Rink, formerly a basketball court, will be converted into a street hockey rink due to the high demand for a place to play hockey in the area.

For an up-close look at the journey to center ice, tune in to the new original series, Road to the Winter Classic, produced in partnership between premium TV network EPIX and the NHL premiering on Dec. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Ross Greenburg, the 52-time Emmy award winning producer, will bring viewers onto the ice and behind-the-scenes with the Capitals and the Blackhawks as they train for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic has become a New Year’s day staple in past years, garnering an all-time high 105,491 fans at last year’s event at Michigan Stadium. NBC’s average broadcast audience for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic has tied as the largest for an NHL regular-season game in the U.S. in nearly four decades. The event generated the largest audience ever for a non-playoff NHL game in Canadian broadcast history.

For extensive coverage leading up to the event, head to NHL.com and NHL Network for information, stories, exclusive reporting and video on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Follow NHL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and give your own input with the official hashtag #WinterClassic.