WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - As expected, the Washington Capitals announced Saturday morning at their fan convention that they will host next season's Winter Classic game on Jan. 1, 2015.
News leaked out Friday, but Saturday, majority owner Ted Leonsis, alongside NHL chief operating officer John Collins, made it official.
The Winter Classic is an annual hockey game played outdoors in baseball or football stadiums, and Leonsis has been fighting to host it for a long time. He said Saturday that while he was watching the first Winter Classic outside Buffalo in 2008, he began emailing the league that he wanted to bring the game to Washington.
"It's an event that really signifies that we've come a long way as a hockey community," he said.
The opponent and venue were not revealed, but those will be announced in due time.
As far as location goes, there are several options in the D.C. area.
"We'll take a look at everything," Collins said. "We'll look at Nationals Park, talk to FedEx Field and go visit RFK Stadium."
He joked about having the game on the National Mall, but that is not an option.
Collins said one of the main reasons the league awarded the event to Washington was how many Capitals fans showed up to the game in Pittsburgh in 2011. He recalled seeing red on every street corner.
"There were 30,000 Caps fans in Pittsburgh," he said. "We owe Washington, D.C., a game after that."
This season's Winter Classic will be at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 1, where the Detroit Red Wings will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Previous locations have been in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
"It's an event unlike any other," Collins said. "We approach it like the Super Bowl. The Stanley Cup is our biggest moment as a league, but the Winter Classic has become our spotlight event, our crown jewel."
In addition to the Winter Classic, the NHL is also hosting a stadium series this season in Chicago (Soldier Field), two in New York (Yankee Stadium) and Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium). The Heritage Classic will be played at Vancouver's BC Place.