Winter Classic alumni game issues create confusion

Puck Daddy
Sep 23, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) stands on the field wearing the Winter Classic edition jersey during a press conference for the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

NHL: Winter Classic-Press Conference

Sep 23, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) stands on the field wearing the Winter Classic edition jersey during a press conference for the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for a little detective drama as to why this year's Winter Classic will not hold an alumni game -- depriving us from seeing the likes of Peter Bondra and Calle Johansson face off against a possible litany of Chicago legends.  

In early December, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Washington Post that, though there were a lot of issues that went into the decision, it was Washington's choice. But it also may have had to do with the late official booking of Nationals Park for the Jan. 1 game between the Caps and the Chicago Blackhawks. 

“In terms of doing all the things we would normally do around this game with the home club, we’re probably a little behind than where we normally are in that case. It’s a great event, but it comes with a lot of issues that need to be resolved too. The primary focus has to be on the Winter Classic itself and the game on the ice, and certainly our priority is to make that as good as it can be.”

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But is there some mixed messaging afoot?

Russian Machine Never Breaks asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:

“I didn’t hear what he said to you,” Bettman retorted when I relayed Daly’s comments. “I’m not sure what you’re telling me is an accurate portrayal, not that you would mislead me. We have no issues. We’re thrilled to be playing at Nationals Park. They’re going to be great hosts.”

“We haven’t always done an alumni game,” he added. “It varies by market to market and situation to situation. I don’t think anybody should read too much into it. Our primary focus is the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals.”

This happens sometimes. One guy says one thing, another guy says something else, they meant to say the same thing and the truth is somewhere in the middle, which is probably the case here. Did the late booking play a role? Probably. 

The Winter Classic wasn't officially announced until early September, even though the Washington Post reported the news in June. 

There's no shame in alumni games, even if one team has richer history than the other, which is the case between Chicago of the 'Original Six' and Washington of the 70s expansion era.

Plus, the Caps held their own against the Penguins, in a 5-5 tie at the 2011 Winter Classic alum event. Either way, this will deprive us all of seeing Mike Gartner skate again, which is sad. 

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