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Bondra scores late in the game. (Photos by Chris Gordon)

This year’s NHL Winter Classic has not had much buildup. Aside from the game, there isn’t much going on. The lack of an official alumni game — which had become a tradition at Winter Classics — angered and vexed many fans. Washington cancelled this year’s Caps Convention, saying they wanted to focus on Winter Classic events and has been hyping its former players all year long, with this season being the team’s fortieth anniversary. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and Caps owner Ted Leonsis have all given competing answers as to why the event didn’t occur. Nevertheless, a group of former Caps, media members, and As Seen on TV people like NBC’s Washington Amelia Segal, took to the Nationals Park ice on Tuesday afternoon as part of an informal skate that came together in the past few weeks.

“I guess we all unfairly assumed that there would be one,” Alan May, who played in the game, said of an official alumni game, noting that Rod Langway and numerous former Blackhawks and Capitals expressed interest. “There’s nothing that can be done about it.”

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Yesterday, bits and pieces of the NHL’s pre-game ceremonies were released to the public. We learned that Caps-anthem regulars Bob McDonald and Caleb Green would be performing the Star Spangled Banner along with the US Army Chorus. We also learned that Lee Greenwood would be at Nats Park for some reason.

Now we learn even more. The NHL has announced there’ll be a flyover by jets, a Billy Idol performance, and Gavin DeGraw will try to resurrect a career that died about three years ago. Man, the NHL sure knows how to be hip.

There’s lots of little good nuggets below though, especially for those of you who are going to the game. Check it out.

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A few weeks ago, ESPN’s Scott Burnside wrote how this year’s Winter Classic lacked national buzz. Here’s another sign things may not be going well– even in this area.

According to RMNB reader Matt O’Rourke, Modell’s is offering Alex Ovechkin’s Winter Classic jersey for 50 percent off, sliced from $180 to 90. It’s not even January 1st yet.

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All the Winter Classic music news is hitting fast and furious today. First we learned that Caps anthem singers Bob McDonald and Caleb Green will perform the national anthem with the US Army Chorus.

Now our second intermission will be filled by the wonderful stylings of Lee Greenwood.

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Before the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks face off on New Year’s Day, there will an elaborate pregame ceremony. Players will skate out of a fake Capitol Dome and reflecting pool. Then the national anthem will be sung.

Instead of picking some idiotic celebrity musician like that dude from Staind, the Capitals have selected Bob McDonald, Caleb Green, and the rest of US Army Chorus to sing.

In a Winter Classic full of odd decisions, this one is pitch perfect.

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Hang Out With Caps Alumni on New Year’s Eve

While there will be no Alumni Game at the Winter Classic this year, more than a dozen former Caps will participate in a fan reception and open house at the Hilton Garden Inn on New Year’s Eve. That’s good news. According to The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, several big names will be in attendance, including Hall of Famer Rod Langway and CSN analyst Alan May.

We did some digging and a source tell us that HOF’er Larry Murphy, CSN’s Craig Laughlin, former 60-goal scorer Dennis Maruk, Al Jensen, Kevin Kaminski, Dave Christian, and others will also be there to hang out with fans.

The event is free of charge and open to the public, though you are encouraged to RSVP via email at rsvpcapshiltonparty@gmail.com. It will last from 5 until 8 PM on the 31st. The hotel is located at 815 14th Street N.W.

I’d go just to dominate Alan May at table top hockey, but that’s just me.

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Photo: Gregory Shamus

Crazy-eyed Brooks Orpik spent 11 seasons in Pittsburgh before leaving for rival Washington as a free agent. Before that, he won a Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2009 and was a fan favorite in the ‘Burgh. Saturday night was his first time back in his old stomping grounds.

“[It’s] one of those things you’ve just got to get through,” Orpik said to The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt the morning before the game. “Once you get through the first time, then it becomes a little more normal, I guess. I don’t know what to expect, to be honest.”

It ended up being a memorable homecoming.

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Attack dog. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

The Barry Trotz era has been a time of tumult for Jay Beagle. In October, he let his beloved Flipper go, a love that had burned bright for six years. Once the season got going, he found his role with the Caps growing. Beagle is skating an average of almost 13 minutes a night this year, a big jump from previous seasons. In fact, Beagle has spent time on the first line skating alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Beags’s has been back there again lately, filling in during Tom Wilson’s recent mid-game benchings.

“Trotz puts a lot of faith in me and puts me in big situations,” Beagle said. “I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let my team down, I don’t want to let myself down. You get those opportunities and you make the most of them.”

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Barry Trotz’s Weapon: Ice Time

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

On Saturday night, Nate Schmidt and Andre Burakovsky sat out as the Capitals faced the Devils in Newark. Tom Wilson, the first line right wing, was also benched for most of second period. Barry Trotz’s weapon is ice time, and he uses it.

For Schmidt, it was his first scratch of the season, coming on the heels of excellent play alongside Mike Green throughout the year. The game before, Schmidt had misplayed Blue Jackets forward Michael Chaput, who scored a game-tying goal late in the game.

“Sometimes you have to reset players when they’re not going very well,” Trotz said the benchings. “You have to give them a little jolt.”

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Santa Clause Sang the National Anthem Tonight and Killed It

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Photo: @capsredrockers

On Monday, the Washington Capitals broke out a special surprise for the seventh day of Hanukkah. Before their game against the Ottawa Senators, Santa Claus sung the national anthems. In sonorous tones reminiscent of Bob McDonald, Santa, who was definitely not Bob McDonald, belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” to the hundreds of fans in attendance, who cheered with bewilderment and amusement.

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