Winter Classic’s newest gimmick is going to look awesome

WASHINGTON, DC – After drawing over 104,000 fans to the Winter Classic at the University of Michigan this year, the annual NHL outdoor game’s organizers knew they had a challenge ahead of them for Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

“Coming off last year, what can we do? We have to start to change,” said Don Renzulli, the NHL’s vice president of events.

The biggest change for the Winter Classic’s aesthetics, and perhaps the coolest thing planned for the Jan. 1 game? How the players will arrive at the rink.

Renzulli’s team joined IMG, the event organizers, and Populous, the League’s architectural firm, to put their heads together on the event's new gimmicks. They decided the best innovation was to use Washington’s iconography on the field and around the rink.

“Their idea was to use the Capitol, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial,” he said.

So a large replica of the U.S. Capitol was reconstructed in what would be center field for the Washington Nationals. Extending out from the building is a long ice “reflecting pool” that goes all the way to the rink.

Here’s a Winter Classic first: The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks will skate down the “reflecting pool” together to their benches, pausing for the national anthem, which will featuring a humungous American flag on the Winter Classic ice rink.

It's going to look awesome.

This gimmick was inspired by the way the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings arrived at their rink in the Dodger Stadium game last season, walking through palm trees from center field.

“They said they felt like rock stars,” said Renzulli.

There will be columns made of ice surrounding the players as they skate out from the Capitol, with flashing lights and pyrotechnics booming. Then, after the players arrive at their benches, the rectangular sheet will be used as the rink for youth hockey games that will be played throughout the day.

The Capitol ties the entire layout of the Winter Classic together, as it sits at the top of a large red star that connects the teams’ logos and the rink. Meanwhile, the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial inspired the entertainment stage where Billy Idol, among others, will perform.

Taken all together, it’s an impressive sight – especially when the players skate down to their benches together.

Hey, if we can’t get an NHL game on the National Mall, this is the next best thing.

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