President Barack Obama has yet to attend an NHL game during his two terms in the White House. Perhaps the event scheduled for Jan. 1, 2015, will finally compel him.
The President’s hometown team, the Chicago Blackhawks, have been revealed as the opponent for the Washington Capitals in the next NHL Winter Classic.
The news was first reported by Bob McKenzie with TSN, and confirmed to Yahoo Sports by multiple sources.
It’s the second Classic for both teams – the Blackhawks faced the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009 while the Capitals played the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011. But it’ll be the third outdoor game for the Blackhawks overall, having faced the Penguins at Solider Field in the Stadium Series last season.
It’s an interesting choice for a number of reasons. The Winter Classic has traditionally featured geographic rivals, which is why some outlets were reporting the Philadelphia Flyers would be the opponent for the Capitals in 2015. Putting the Blackhawks in against the Capitals is:
1. A show of faith that the D.C. market can sell out an outdoor hockey game and that the Chicago market can carry the ratings.
2. A show of confidence that Blackhawks fans will travel to that game, from transplants on the East Coast to those in the Midwest.
3. The hope that the star power of Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are enough to sell a game that doesn’t have a built-in rivalry narrative that, say, the Red Wings and Leafs have.
Furthermore, there are the HBO implications. If ‘24/7’ returns again this season, it will be the first time a team has been featured twice, as the Capitals starred in the landmark first series of the show. Granted, plenty has changed since then. For example, their coach back in 2011 was a candid, charismatic hockey veterans with a rotund head. OK, maybe not much has changed, come to think of it…
Also, Patrick Kane. Uncensored. Yes, please.
Where will the game be held? The potential venues:
Nationals Park. Likely the choice. It’s got a good capacity (41,888 for baseball), it’s located in the District and it’s still a shiny new facility in the tradition of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Also Mark Lerner is a minority owner in Ted Leonsis’s Monumental Sports, which owns the Capitals.
RFK Stadium. The former home of the Redskins, the most storied sports temple in the area and a place that the NHL looked at as a possible venue. Still in the running. An old building, but it looks great, considering that Magneto destroyed it back in the 1970s.
FedEx Field. The capacity is the selling point for this Maryland stadium, with over 92,000 fans possible for a hockey game. Alas, the Redskins host the Cowboys on Dec. 28, making the rink building impossible there. Too bad ... the delicious irony of a team with a Native American mascot playing in Dan Snyder's building would have been awesome.
M&T Bank Stadium. Home of the Baltimore Ravens, and the same situation: They face the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 28.
Camden Yards. Home of the Baltimore Orioles and a place for which we’ve long rallied, but a “neutral site” Winter Classic made more sense when it might have been the Flyers as the foe.
But instead it's the Blackhawks. Thanks, Obama.