We know the Winter Classic will be played on January 1, 2015. We know it will be the Washington Capitals hosting the Chicago Blackhawks in Washington, D.C. We just don't know where exactly the game will be played within the nation's capital.
The NHL had not yet finalized a site for the 2015 Winter Classic as of Friday according to the Washington Post. According to the Post's report, negotiations between the NHL and the operators of Nationals Park, home of the Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals, are believed to be ongoing. Additionally, RFK Stadium, which currently houses D.C. United of Major League Soccer, could be an option for the NHL's marquee event if a deal is not struck with the Nationals.
The chief executive of Events DC, the city authority that administers RFK Stadium, said his agency has had no direct role in the Winter Classic site discussions in months.
Under the Nationals' lease with the city, the team would have final say in allowing the use of the publicly financed, city-owned ballpark. Events DC CEO Greg O'Dell said Friday he understands negotiations between the Nationals and the NHL are ongoing. “I have not been told definitively by anybody that they have ceased discussions,” he said.
O'Dell said his agency floated RFK Stadium as a possible location for the Winter Classic months ago and had some discussions with the NHL about that site, but the league has not approached Events DC about RFK since talks with the Nationals began.
There was also this most interesting tidbit from the Post's report:
According to a spokesperson for the National Parks Service, the NHL made an informal enquiry about using the National Mall, but no permit applications have been issued.
Could you imagine that? I have a hard time believing something like that would fly both from the NHL's and parks service perspectives, but it's a pretty excellent pipe dream. If the league somehow pulled that off, it would take the spectacle to a new level. Just don't hold your breath for that one.
FedEx Field, home of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, is not believed to be in the running to host the Winter Classic due to the fact that Washington hosts the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 28. That would not leave enough time to prepare the stadium for a hockey game.
So it may be a little unsettling that the NHL doesn't have this pinned down yet considering the league announced that Washington, D.C., would host the big event on Sept. 20, 2013, and the fact that the league already has a venue for a just-announced California outdoor game in February (Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara). That said, the 2012 Winter Classic site was not announced as Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia until the September before the event. This is not unprecedented.
Either way, in order to fully plan out the logistics for the NHL's annual celebration of the league, and huge revenue generator, a site should be selected soon. It seems the two most realistic options at this point are Nationals Park, which could offer some great visuals or RFK Stadium, which would provide a bit of a nostalgia angle as it was the home of the Nationals and Redskins at one time. Nationals Park opened in 2008, while RFK opened in 1961.
The nation's capital always seemed like an ideal destination to host the Winter Classic. That's still true, but with the venue still night completely settled, it does bring a little bit of concern. The clock really is ticking here for what has become one of the most important events on the NHL calendar.