With the National Hockey League schedule due to come out this weekend, details about the major events the NHL holds annually should be trickling out. It was already known that the Washington Capitals would host the 2015 Winter Classic, but it was unclear who they would play. That was cleared up Friday by a report from Bob McKenzie of TSN. The Chicago Blackhawks will play the Caps in Washington, D.C. The site for the Jan. 1 game has yet to be announced, however.
The Blackhawks have become media darlings in the NHL for their star power, massive local TV ratings and two recent Stanley Cup titles. They have been outdoors a few times already, having hosted the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, while participating in last year's Stadium Series with a game at Soldier Field against the Pittsburgh Penguins in March.
The NHL hasn't strayed far from a few different teams when playing outdoors and this Winter Classic will feature not one, but two repeat Classic participants. The Capitals played the Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
While it may be getting repetitive, it's not hard to see why the league is going back to the same well. With one of the game's biggest stars in Alex Ovechkin and the ratings king that is the Blackhawks, it is a near guarantee of revenue success and good television numbers.
The good news for hockey fans even if you don't like either team is Ovechkin and Patrick Kane on HBO's 24/7. Imagine Kane's “Showtime” goal if he was mic'd up?
That should be fun, but even so, it's disappointing that the league hasn't branched out much at all with these teams in outdoor games. The Stadium Series was a lot of fun and definitely worked, allowing them to give some new teams the outdoor treatment, but the Winter Classic remains a bit static with only nine different teams occupying the 14 spots that have been filled over seven Winter Classics. It is the league's marquee regular-season event and it doesn't really showcase the whole NHL very well.
It would also be nice to one day take the entire event west of the Mississippi River for once. That won't happen next year, but as the event continues to grow, it shouldn't matter where it is held (Minnesota and Colorado would be great) as it remains one of the league's great annual spectacles.