Updated, 12:10 p.m. Four years after the Capitals first took part in the NHL’s marquee outdoor game, the Winter Classic will come to Washington.
The location of the contest and the Capitals’ opponent for it is still unknown, but considering Nationals owner Mark Lerner is a minority partner in Leonsis’s Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Nationals Park in Southeast Washington may be a likely candidate. The Nationals lease the ballpark from the District, though, and would not have exclusive control over such a decision.
While there are several stadium options in the region, including FedEx Field, RFK Stadium or perhaps even Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one unconventional venue was ruled out by Leonsis years ago.
In January 2012, Leonsis wrote on his blog that the Mall would not be a location option for a Classic in Washington.
“The idea of a game being played on the Mall has been floated around for many years – it is NOT feasible; there aren’t enough common areas to build out seats,” Leonsis wrote on Jan. 3, 2012. “And the expense involved to create locker rooms; ice stands and studios are prohibitive. The Mall is managed by the National Park Service, as well.”
Sky Kerstein of 106.7 The Fan was the first to report that an outdoor game was coming to the Washington area next season.
The Capitals captured a 3-1 victory over the Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. That year’s Classic marked the first time participating teams were featured on HBO’s “24/7” series in a run-up to the contest.
Since the Capitals took their initial turn in the NHL’s brightest regular season spotlight, Leonsis sought not only to participate in one of the outdoor showcases but to host one.
“That was such an awesome feeling, it was a great experience,” top center Nicklas Backstrom said of the Capitals’ first appearance in the Classic. “To have it here in Washington would be even better. The fans here in Washington are great and always supportive, it would be cool.”