Capitals get 2015 Winter Classic

Updated: September 21, 2013, 1:23 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The Washington Capitals will finally get to host a Winter Classic as promised three years ago by the NHL.

The Capitals announced Saturday they are hosting the outdoor game on Jan. 1, 2015.

This season's Winter Classic is Jan. 1 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., between Detroit and Toronto.

"The excitement of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic continues to grow, and bringing the 2015 event to the D.C. area will write another chapter in the game's great history of entertainment," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We are looking forward to being in Washington with the Capitals' great fans."

Bettman, in announcing the 2011 Winter Classic game between the Capitals and Penguins in Pittsburgh, promised during his state of the union address before the 2010 Stanley Cup finals in Chicago that in exchange for participating, Washington would also get to host a game within two or three years.

Last year's lockout postponed the Winter Classic in Detroit by a year, which obviously pushed Washington's plans a year ahead as well.

"Now what I start to worry about is, I hope it's cold enough, right?" Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. "I experienced the weather in Pittsburgh, and I see what can happen city-by-city when you play outdoors and I just hope that we get a cold spell and maybe even some snow."

The average high temperature on Jan. 1 in Washington is 44 degrees, with a record of 69 set in 2005. A good litmus test for outdoor hockey in a warmer climate will come Jan. 5 when the Anaheim Ducks will play the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium.

Leonsis said he'd like to attend the game at Dodger Stadium, and noted that there have been technological advances that keep rinks cold when the temperature is unseasonably warm. He said it sounded like a "good idea" when a fan suggested that the game in Washington be held at night when it's colder, but he also said that decision will be left up to the NHL.

"The big concern is rain," he said. "That's the one thing that would make it very difficult."

Still to be determined are a venue and an opponent. NHL chief operating officer John Collins said the league will consider Nationals Park, RFK Stadium and FedEx Field. Leonsis would prefer to rule out FedEx Field, which is located outside the city in Landover, Md.

"I think it should be in Washington, D.C.," Leonsis said.

There have been suggestions that the game be played on the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, but the Capitals say there are too many logistical hurdles to make it a feasible venue.

The decision to play the game in Washington reinforces the city's recent emergence on the national hockey scene. The Capitals have become a perennial playoff contender with three-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin, and they've sold out 181 consecutive games. Collins also noted the strong D.C. fan contingent that made the trip to Pittsburgh for the 2011 Classic.

"One thing I did learn from that game," Collins said. "There's only one thing that Pittsburgh fans and the Caps fans agree on -- and that's how much they hate Philadelphia."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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