There is no better way to cool down in the middle of August than thinking about the NHL’s Winter Classic.
For over three years now hockey fans in Washington have wondered about the one-time promise to hold the event locally. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman both have said the game, a New Year’s Day staple now, would be played here. But the date was always left open ended and Leonsis wrote a blog post in early 2012 saying that nothing was imminent.
Thanks to the cancelation of last year’s Winter Classic, the 2013 game was simply rolled over to this January when the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in the league’s signature regular-season event.
But that also pushed back every other team waiting in line for its turn. The Caps will always have the star power to carry a Winter Classic as long as Alex Ovechkin is playing at a Hart Trophy level. But that would seem to make hosting the game soon a priority. Ovechkin isn’t getting any younger at age 28 next month.
Don’t expect official word in the near future. In the past the NHL has announced the following year’s Winter Classic as early as Feb. 9 – the original Detroit-Toronto game that was later canceled had an 11-month head start – and as late as Sept. 26 just over three months before the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers faced each other in the 2012 game.
The league announced the rescheduled Red Wings-Maple Leafs game last April 7. It chose May 28, 2010 to set up the classic 2011 game between the Caps and Penguins in Pittsburgh. It went with early July to officially award the 2009 (Detroit-Chicago at Wrigley Field) and 2010 (Philadelphia-Boston at Fenway Park) games.
Word will likely leak before the official announcement, of course, and there are plenty of candidates. A report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune during the NHL lockout last winter described a possible Chicago-Minnesota Winter Classic at Target Field. The NHL is also set to host five other outdoor games this season, including two at Yankee Stadium (Rangers-Devils on Jan. 26, Rangers-Islanders on Jan. 29) during Super Bowl week in New York.
The other outdoor games are in Los Angeles between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium, Pittsburgh at Chicago at Soldier Field on March 1 and Ottawa at Vancouver on March 2 at BC Place.