The NHL’s Winter Classic is, at its core, about juxtaposition.
An indoor league holding games outdoors. Men who play on ice battling the cold. Hockey in stadia constructed for football or baseball teams.
So in keeping with that theme: There would be no greater juxtaposition than the Washington Capitals hosting the 2015 Winter Classic up I-95 in Baltimore, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
First, via the Washington Post, let’s look at the possibilities for hockey outdoors in the D.C. area:
The location of the contest and the Capitals’ opponent for it is still unknown, but considering Nationals owner Mark Lerner is a minority partner in Leonsis’s Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Nationals Park in Southeast Washington may be a likely candidate.
The Nationals lease the ballpark from the District, though, and would not have exclusive control over such a decision. While there are several stadium options in the region, including FedEx Field, RFK Stadium or perhaps even Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Ted Leonsis said in announcing the game that "We are extremely excited to host the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and bring this great event to the D.C. area."
Let’s rule out FedEx Field. It’s a 92,000 seat monstrosity that fans tolerate only because their religion of choice – the Redskins – is practiced there.
As an iconic baseball venue, Camden Yards far outclasses Nationals Park. It’s a sports Mecca; the Orioles teams that have competed within its walls have been unworthy of it for years. It’s the stadium baseball parks strive to mimic since it opened in 1992; if it seems cookie cutter now, it’s because of that emulation.
As the New York Times called it, it’s the “ballpark that forever changed baseball.”
Frankly, the only venue that’s as intriguing as Camden Yards from an iconic standpoint is RFK Stadium, which remains the heart and soul of DC Sports, despite only calling D.C. United as a tenant. For a D.C. fan, an outdoor game at RFK would be un-matched for nostalgia.
But as a hockey fan, I want the game at Camden Yards.
Baltimore has some hockey history, going back to the Clippers in the 1960s and more recently the Skipjacks and Bandits. The Capitals have made inroads in the market with preseason games in the last few years. Its location would bring Capitals fans up the interstate (and from neighboring counties), while also being a tad closer to the Philadelphia Flyers fan base one assumes will be the other team in the showcase (unless it’s Sid vs. Ovi, Round 2 Outdoors … paged David Steckel).
Its geography, in some ways, builds off what the NHL is doing with the 2014 Winter Classic: Ann Arbor is a Detroit Red Wings market, but it’s not Detroit.
So, mark me down for a Camden Yards Winter Classic. With the fan fest and alumni games back in D.C.
Which, alas, probably won’t happen.
As the Post point out, the relationship between Leonsis and Nationals ownership means the game will likely be played at that venue. It’s a very nice ballpark, don’t get me wrong; but it’s like holding a game at Citi Field instead of Fenway or Wrigley.
Plus, there’s another factor: Washington fans hate Baltimore, and specifically Camden Yards, because Orioles owner Peter Angelos worked tirelessly for years to keep baseball from returning to Washington. The idea that the Capitals would do anything associated with the most hated villain in D.C. sports not wearing a Dallas Cowboys star is outlandish.
As in Washington jerseys would burn. Literally.
So expect the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park, with a hope that it’s RFK Stadium and a wish that it was Camden Yards. But whatever happens, let’s all hope the temperature cooperates.