Like many of the 42,843 fans in attendance at Thursday’s Winter Classic at Nationals Park, 14-year-old Justin Fox of Culpeper, Va., received his tickets as a Christmas gift.

“Best gift ever,” said Fox, who sported the Winter Classic sweater of Capitals forward Troy Brouwer.

Fox attended the game with his grandmother, aunt and uncle. The same foursome was at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for the Capitals’s 3-1 win over the Penguins on New Year’s Day in 2011. After Thursday’s 3-2 win, they vowed to be in the stands for Washington’s third appearance in the event, whenever and wherever that may be

“I didn’t see it at first, but then I saw people celebrating and it was awesome,” Fox said of Brouwer’s game-winning goal in the final minute.

Grant Freeman of the District had been looking forward to Thursday since October, when he received tickets for his 11th birthday. Freeman wore a Capitals sweater, hat and red and blue bands on his braces for the occasion, and cheered Brouwer’s game-winning goal from Section 401 with his dad, Greg. The 400 level along the third base line afforded a view of both the real Capitol dome — scaffolding and all — and the mini Capitol building erected in center field.

“It was cool to get a good view of the whole game,” Freeman said. “I didn’t really know if we were going to lose or win, or what was going to happen. I was very happy.”

Joe Rando and his son Ben stood out among a sea of mostly red in their bright yellow Nashville Predators sweaters. The Randos live in Nashville and got to know Barry Trotz during the first-year Capitals coach’s 15 years with the Predators. They attended Wednesday’s family skate and watched the Winter Classic from Section 109.

“We’re still Predators all the way, but we’re rooting for the Capitals today,” said Ben, who wore a Seth Jones jersey.

“I think the key is getting up off of field level a little bit,” Joe Rando said of the view. “Once you get up about 10 rows, I think everywhere is a pretty good seat.”

“This is a pretty awesome event,” said Joe Nohe of Baltimore, who sat in the center field bleachers. “It’s something I was looking forward to ever since they announced it. I was kind of worried how our seats were going to be, but we could still see fine.”

Not even a Chicago loss could spoil the enjoyment of the event for Blackhawks fan T.J. Thompson of Blacksburg, whose girlfriend Britney surprised him with standing-room only tickets from StubHub for Christmas.

“It was fantastic being here,” said Thompson, who arrived at the Winter Classic fan fest at The Fairgrounds when it opened at 9 a.m. “We got here early to get a good spot.”

Brothers Alex Foos and Andrew Foos watched the game from Section 302. Both agreed the atmosphere was more festive than anything they’ve experienced at a Capitals game before.

“Unleash the Fury,” a staple of the in-game entertainment at the Verizon Center, was a sight to behold.

“When they announced that they were going to host the game, I was actually stationed in New Orleans,” said Alex Foos, who’s in the Coast Guard. “I had to find a way to get back here. So I got a transfer, thank God, and ever since I got back I’ve been trying to buy tickets for this game. I didn’t want to miss it for the world. It’s hard to beat this. A bigs Cap win and the environment was fantastic.”

“The final goal was definitely the best part,” said Mitchell Liverman of Charles County. “That made it all worth it for me.”