Sources: National Hockey League, Capital Weather Gang, photos from the Associated Press. Published Dec. 27, 2014.
THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC: 2008 TO PRESENT
RALPH WILSON STADIUM
A record-setting crowd of 71,217 was on hand in the inaugural NHL Winter Classic — and the league’s second outdoor regular season game — to witness Penguins captain Sidney Crosby carry his team to a dramatic win with the deciding goal in a 2-1 shootout victory.
An announced 40,818 braved the Chicago winter to watch the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, at Wrigley Field, which became the first baseball stadium to host a professional hockey game. Detroit forward Jiri Hudler scored two goals in the second period to begin a stretch of five consecutive goals that put the visitors ahead for good.
In a venue with a rich history of memorable Boston sports moments, Marco Sturm added his own by scoring an overtime goal in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The event, which drew 38,112 fans to the storied stadium, also marked the first time a home team won the Winter Classic.
Despite the intermittent rain and warm temperatures that pushed the game back from early afternoon to nighttime, 68,111 turned out to watch Eric Fehr lead the Washington Capitals to a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field. Neither team’s superstar – Washington’s Alex Ovechkin or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby – recorded a point in the game.
CITIZENS BANK PARK
With New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday, the NHL moved the Winter Classic to Jan. 2 for the first time to avoid conflicting with NFL broadcasts. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves, including one on a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left in the game, and visiting New York rallied to beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2.
After a one-year hiatus because of the NHL lockout, the Winter Classic returned by setting a league attendance record of 105,491 at Michigan Stadium. Amid the heavy snowfall and frigid temperature, the Toronto Maple Leafs secured a 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings in what may have been the most picturesque Winter Classic.
In 2008, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner wrote to Ted Leonsis, his counterpart with the Washington Capitals, that they needed to bring the Winter Classic to the nation’s capital. And seven years later, it will become a reality when the Capitals take on the visiting Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park on New Year’s Day. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the ballpark in Southeast Washington “an ideal setting” for the annual event.