Hold­ing Win­ter Clas­sic in D. C. a Cap­i­tals’ idea

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS HOCKEY - By Joseph White

WASH­ING­TON — The Win­ter Clas­sic is mov­ing south of the Ma­son- Dixon Line, which means it’s time to check the fore­cast.

“Now what I start to worry about is, I hope it’s cold enough, right?” Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals owner Ted Leon­sis said.

Leon­sis an­nounced Satur­day that the Cap­i­tals will host the NHL’s an­nual New Year’s Day out­door game in 2015. He’s been lob­by­ing for the game for years. The Cap­i­tals were the vis­it­ing team in Pitts­burgh for the 2011 Win­ter Clas­sic, which was post­poned sev­eral hours be­cause of rain.

“I ex­pe­ri­enced the weather in Pitts­burgh, and I see what can hap­pen city- by- city when you play out­doors,” Leon­sis said at the team’s an­nual fan con­ven­tion, “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 7 de­grees C, with a record of 20 set in 2005. This sea­son’s Win­ter Clas­sic will be held in Michi­gan, but 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 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. 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 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 three­time 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.”

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

LUIS M. AL­VAREZ / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals ma­jor­ity owner Ted Leon­sis

makes the big an­nounce­ment Satur­day.

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