Capitals Set To Host '15 Winter Classic After Years Of Lobbying By Ted Leonsis
The Capitals on Saturday were formally awarded the '15 Winter Classic, and NHL COO John Collins said that he "expects the league to begin serious examination of locations" for the event within the next month, according to Katie Carrera of the WASHINGTON POST. Aside from the National Mall, which "isn’t a feasible place to play an NHL game, no venue options have been eliminated." Collins said, "We haven’t ruled anything out, because we haven’t really visited anything seriously." The league "will consult" with the Capitals and team Owner Ted Leonsis "on where to hold the contest." League officials have "made brief visits to local stadiums over the past two years but have not done the full surveys required to determine the best location for the Classic." The region "doesn't lack options" for possible venues, but Leonsis "would prefer to see the game played" in DC. Nationals Park "appears to be the top candidate at this early stage, given that it is a new stadium (opened in 2008) and its location would allow for the league to make the game, related fan experience events and youth hockey rinks centrally focused in downtown Washington." Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner also is a minority partner in Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment (WASHINGTON POST, 9/22). In Boston, Tim Rosenthal reported, "The Bruins and Flyers are two of the leading candidates to face the Caps." With NBC and HBO "likely playing a role in the decision, one could easily assume that the Flyers are the favorites because of their affiliation with Comcast." However, with their recent success, the Bruins "would make more sense" (BOSTON.com, 9/20).
LEONSIS' LOBBYING: CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote of Leonsis, "For him this game coming to DC in more than a year's time is a culmination of a lot of work and dreams." Leonsis "knew he wanted this to happen and wasn't going to stop until it did." He said of watching the '08 Classic on New Year's Day, "Literally five minutes into the game I said, 'This is the greatest thing I've seen, what do I have to do to get one in Washington?'" Stubits: "Apparently part of the answer was to pester Gary Bettman until it happened." The Capitals were featured in HBO's "24/7" in '11 when they played in the Winter Classic, and if that relationship "continues long enough" for the '15 game, the Capitals would "love" to have "24/7" return. Capitals VP & GM George McPhee said of the HBO show, "I didn't find it intrusive and I don't think the players did. You get used to it in a hurry. I thought it went really well and people really enjoyed it. Yes (I'd be willing to do it again)" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/21). Leonsis: "Now what I start to worry about is, I hope it’s cold enough, right?" The AP's Joseph White noted, "The average high temperature on Jan. 1 in Washington is 44 degrees." Leonsis added, "The big concern is rain. That’s the one thing that would make it very difficult" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 9/21).
WHERE SHOULD GAME BE HELD? YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote of possible venues, "The only venue that’s as intriguing as Camden Yards from an iconic standpoint is RFK Stadium." Wyshynski: "As a hockey fan, I want the game at Camden Yards." But DC fans "hate Baltimore, and specifically Camden Yards." The "idea that the Capitals would do anything" associated with Orioles Owner Peter Angelos is "outlandish" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/21). CSNWASHINGTON.com's Chuck Gormley reported Nationals Park is "considered the leading candidate" to host the game. Capitals D Karl Alzner's "only concern" over playing at Nationals Park "is the distance between the rink and the seating." The ballpark, which opened in '08, holds 41,888 fans for baseball (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 9/21).
SHARKS COULD GET OUTDOOR GAME, TOO: Sharks COO John Tortora said the team "would be in the running" to host an outdoor game at some point during the '14-15 season if the league holds multiple outdoor games. Tortora said that the NHL "will wait and see how an outdoor game goes in the warm weather L.A. location before determining if a game in the Bay Area is viable" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/20).