There will be hockey at Nationals Park this winter.
The NHL and the Washington Nationals have reached terms allowing the 2015 Winter Classic game, set for Jan. 1 between the Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, to be played in the D.C. ballpark, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the matter ahead of a planned public announcement, expected “very soon.”
The deal ends months of speculation about the venue for the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day outdoor spectacle. Less than a month ago, with questions mounting about when the location might be announced, representatives from the Nationals, the Capitals and the NHL remained mum. A person familiar with the search said several issues still needed to be resolved at that time.
Spokesmen for the Capitals, Monumental Network and the Nationals declined comment Saturday. Representatives for the NHL did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While Nationals Park, the region’s newest pro sports facility, had long been assumed to be the most natural location for the game, league officials had also visited FedEx Field and RFK Stadium. The league also had inquired informally about using the National Mall for the event, according to a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium also had been discussed.
Of the six previous Winter Classics, three have been played in baseball stadiums and three in football stadiums.
FedEx Field had been ruled out, according to a person familiar with the discussions, because a Dec. 28 Redskins-Cowboys game would leave insufficient time to build a rink. M&T Bank Stadium is also set to host an NFL game that day.
While Nationals Park was built and is owned by the District, the Nationals control the use of the stadium under its lease with the city — meaning the NHL had to come to terms with owner Ted Lerner and his deputies.
Told a deal had been reached, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he was relieved the parties had come to terms. “The perfect site for it is Nationals” Park, he said. “I’m glad it got done.”
Alex Prewitt contributed to this report.