The National Hockey League announced Wednesday that the 2015 Winter Classic between the Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks will be hosted at Nationals Park, confirming an earlier report that the deal had been finalized.
The location of the annual outdoor event, scheduled for Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., had remained in limbo for months, though the 41,546-seat ballpark in Southeast D.C. had always remained the overwhelming favorite, with the final negotiating hurdles eventually cleared last week by the Nationals and the NHL.
“The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic has made New Year’s Day a highlight of the season for NHL fans everywhere,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Nationals Park provides an ideal setting for all the excitement, entertainment and fun as the Blackhawks and Capitals bring our outdoor tradition to historic Washington, D.C.”
The Capitals also plan to unveil their throwback Winter Classic sweaters on Sept. 23 at an event at Nationals Park. Bettman, team owner Ted Leonsis, Nationals owner Mark Lerner, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and goalie Braden Holtby are scheduled to attend and address the media.
“We are thrilled the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be played at Nationals Park as we welcome the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans to our nation’s capital,” Leonsis said in the news release. “We are delighted the D.C. area and our great fan base will have an opportunity to experience the Winter Classic, and we know that Nationals Park will provide an incredible backdrop for the game.”
The event marks the first inter-conference Winter Classic, the second time participating for both the Capitals, who beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in 2011, and the Blackhawks, who hosted the Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009. It is also the fourth Winter Classic held at an MLB ballpark. The game will be broadcast on NBC. According to the news release, Nationals Park also plans to feature a “Spectator Plaza” with hockey-themed attractions, with ticket information released in the coming weeks.
“We are honored to have been selected to host the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park,” Lerner said, per the release. “The Classic is one of North America’s premier sports events, and we look forward to sharing our ballpark and our city with NHL fans from around the world.”