OK, Caps fans. You’ve got six months to lather up some old-fashioned hate for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Having a tough time with that, aren’t you?
Having pitted some of the league’s fiercest rivals in recent Winter Classics, the NHL has decided to match Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Jan. 1, 2015 at a site yet to be determined.
The announcement will become official on Sunday when the Capitals release their full 2014-15 schedule.
NatsPark is considered the most likely venue for the Classic, the first-ever hosted by the Capitals, who appeared in the 2011 Winter Classic against the Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Caps and Blackhawks lack the venom of some of the league’s other rivalries, mostly because the two teams have never met in the playoffs.
In fact, to find the nastiest bit of animosity between the two teams the folks at HBO might need to dig up some dirt from the night of Sept. 25, 1999.
That’s the night the Caps and Blackhawks engaged in a penalty-filled exhibition game that included five fights on the ice and another outside the Blackhawks’ dressing room in Columbus, Ohio.
Following the game former Caps general manager and NHL tough guy George McPhee reportedly got roughed up by several Blackhawks players.
McPhee reportedly was cut in the face and had the sleeve of his sport coat torn off in the altercation. McPhee reportedly gave Chicago coach Lorne Molleken a black eye during the scuffle.
“They didn’t come to play hockey,” former Capitals coach Ron Wilson said at the time, accusing the Blackhawks of fighting some of the Capitals’ smaller players.
McPhee was relieved of his duties after the Capitals missed the playoffs this season, but his replacement, Brian MacLellan could probably share a story or two about the rivalries he had with the Hawks during his NHL playing career with the Kings, Rangers, North Stars, Flames and Red Wings.
For now, HBO is likely to play up the rivalry between two of the game’s greatest goal scorers – Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane, who have combined to score 135 goals the past two seasons.