Photo credit: Justin K. Aller
This morning we talked about whom the Capitals might play against at the fabled 2015 Winter Classic, which we are due to learn about on Saturday. Word on the street is that it’ll be Boston or Philly (probably Philly), but that doesn’t matter as our discussion quickly devolved into where the game would be held.
I was at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on that gloriously balmy January day back in 2011. It was magical, with nearly a birds-eye-view of the on-ice action and the largest crowd I’ve ever screamed next to at a hockey game.
The Winter Classic is all about that scope, that grandeur, that nostalgia, and that crass financial exploitation of an unsuspecting fanbase. It won’t get any bigger and $$$-ier than this year’s Winter Classic, held at the 100k-seating Big House in Michigan. So where will it be in 2015?
It’s a complicated question. Regional loyalties, security, sight lines, occupancy, and Dan Snyder’s undiluted evil all play into the equation– as does the fact that it NEVER SNOWS IN DC ANYMORE.
Let’s run through the candidates together.
Located in an up-and-coming neighborhood along the Anacostia River in the Southeast corner of the city, Nats Park is an easily accessible baseball stadium for anyone in the DMV. Home of the Washington Nationals, a team that makes up for its wildly uncreative name with a spirited young squad that totally, totally deserved the ludicrous ranking Sports Illustrated gave them before the season.
While Nats Park has fantastic food, it also has all the awful sightlines endemic to watching hockey in a ballpark.
Nonetheless, if we were making odds, Nats Park would be the favorite by a mile.
Photo via @FlowGator15
Known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium for about 90 seconds, FedEx Field is a concrete monstrosity located in the untamed wilds of Landover, Maryland. Ostensibly the home of Washington’s football club, FedEx is actually just Dan Snyder’s Death Star, which is currently incapable of flight but retains the operational capacity to destroy human souls. Parking at FedEx costs your first-born son, which isn’t so bad considering leaving the stadium by car takes a length of time equal to a human baby’s gestation.
Watching outdoor hockey in a football stadium is ideal. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh proved that. But it’s looking unlikely:
— Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) September 20, 2013
The current home of DC United until a new soccer stadium is built in SE, RFK is the crumbling remnant of football inside the beltway. It is literally falling apart (Steinberg link #2!). Those of you who want to reminisce about paying $120 to see Bon Jovi look bored while playing there or the time you got sweated on by 200 people simultaneously while some ska band skanked onstage at the HFStival might be excited about the possibility of a Winter Classic there, but people will literally die. Screaming, falling from the shambles of the upper deck as NBC Sports cuts to a Bridgestone tire commercial.
The earth will soon swallow RFK, toxic mold and all. It’s an antique– a relic of the Cold War, only here for a moment or two longer. No hockey.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Located 55 minutes from Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Camden Yards is the jewel of the Major League. Its picturesque skyline and historic warehouse (hit just once by a home run, Ken Griffey, Jr.’s, in the home-run derby) make it a must-see destination for any true sports fan. Two-time World Series-winner Boog Powell can still be seen slinging barbeque on Eutaw St. during sunny summer days, as can the garden of statues featuring the Greatest Human Ever to Breathe, Cal Ripken, Jr. (Peace Be Upon Him). Some say if you stand behind home plate, and the wind blows just right, you can still hear Earl Weaver urging women to worry less about when to plant tomatoes and more about “where their next lay is coming from.”
OPACY is, simply, the Greatest Place. It is Magic. It is the One True Venue for all sports. Eventually, jai alai, swim meets, and laser-tag tournaments will be held there. Might as well start with the Winter Classic. It’s inevitable. Give into it. Old Bay on ALL THE THINGS.
It’s not going to happen.
But it should.
There are a million reasons why it cannot happen.
But it should.
Ticket sales wouldn’t come close to the 100,000+ that they’ll sell at the Big House this year, but the scope could be so much grander than that.
Monuments dot the landscape. Modest grandstands flank the ice. Temporary facilities are erected nearby for security and safety. 1.9 miles of open space between the Capitol steps and the Lincoln Memorial are filled with activities: hockey exhibitions, mite tournaments, stages for bands, games, beer gardens, press centers, a hockey history museum, and more beer gardens.
It’d mean foregoing a ton of box-office sales, but DVD sales and the avalanche of goodwill would in time make up for it.
But it’s not going to happen.