Hockey takes goal shot with ‘Winter Classic’

Capitals set for showcase outdoors

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The host city also is looking to cash in on fans heading to the Steel City for the event. Pittsburgh officials said last week they expect the weekend to generate $23 million for the region from such sources as taxes on tickets and hotel rooms, and spending on meals and merchandise. Hotel rooms, which in a typical year are readily available for New Year’s Eve, are hard to find in the city’s core this year.

Jersey sales, a barometer of overall merchandise sales, have been 24 percent better than for last year’s faceoff between Boston and Philadelphia, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Tickets, which range from $49 to $250 at face value, are listed for much more than that on the secondary market. Of the approximately 65,000 tickets available for the game, 20,000 were given to the Capitals to distribute to its season-ticket holders. Despite the steep cost — and limited sightlines created by placing an NHL-sized rink in the middle of an NFL field — Pittsburgh officials said they expect 30,000 fans from Washington to attend the event.

Even an alumni game between retired Capitals and Penguins players on New Year’s Eve sold out in just minutes, with fans asking several times the $25 face value of tickets on the resale market.

Although the action is 250 miles away from Washington this weekend, local officials also will be watching closely. The NHL has promised the Capitals to bring the event to the area in the next two or three years, with the “front-runners” to host the event being FedEx Field or Nationals Park, according to Mr. Daly.

“We were able to work with the NFL and the Steelers this time around. … I’m sure we’d get the same cooperation [with the Redskins], but we’d have to take a look at that,” he said. “Quite frankly, we’ve looked at both venues … We think both would work, but we’d have to look at the scenarios.”

One concern out of the NHL’s control is this weekend’s weather. While the league can play the game in warmer weather, a chance of rain is forecast during the game, which could make the surface unplayable and force the league to push the game back to Saturday night or even as late as Sunday afternoon.

“It’s something you’ve got to deal with,” Mr. Crosby told reporters Monday. “It’s something that’s a possibility, but it’s not unusual for a game like that.”

Despite all the hype, the players are looking forward to playing on a big stage outside in the elements, no matter what they are.

“We have to feel like we have over the last week, where we keep building and building and building,” Washington defenseman Mike Green said Tuesday after the Capitals‘ 3-0 win over Montreal. “We still have a lot to learn, but at least we get to play in a great event like we do Saturday. It’ll be exciting.”

“It will be exciting,” Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. “It’s one of those things in your career you just want to take it all in, enjoy the game and just have fun with it.”

“I think we all feel pretty lucky to be in the game,” Mr. Crosby said. “For some of us who have played in one already, it’s another opportunity to be part of a pretty unique event. The fact that we have it here in Pittsburgh against a rival and that it’s become such a big event, I think we all just feel lucky to be a part of it.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.

He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...

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