- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unless the NHL ditches the idea of outdoor hockey and the buzz, ratings and money that goes with it, a Winter Classic in Washington is more of a question of when, not if.

But the event won’t take place in the D.C. area in 2013. That’s no surprise, given Detroit’s favorite status, though owner Ted Leonsis confirmed as much Tuesday.

“To set the record straight, there has not been any communication to us on a formal basis as to a Winter Classic coming to DC in a specific year. I have been told that the Winter Classic will NOT be coming to DC next year though,” Leonsis wrote on his blog. “I have also been assured that because of the size of our fan base — and the beauty of our city — that a Winter Classic would come to Washington DC; at some point in the future. And that is good enough for me.”

That future is expected to be 2014 or 2015, a result of the Caps’ agreement with the NHL to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. Detroit’s Comerica Park is considered the top choice for next year’s event, with a chance that it happens at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

League chief operating officer John Collins brought up Detroit and New York as future sites, but commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn’t speculate on talk about going west with the Winter Classic soon.

“The answer is you can eliminate some of the warmer climates,” he said Monday. “We are not probably going to go back to where we have been. So that’s all you get from me today.”

Reports have indicated the NHL’s promise to the Caps was a Winter Classic by 2014, though that is not official. It would seem to fit into the timeline, though, with a city such as Minneapolis or Denver getting a chance to host the event before New York City, which could have the game at Yankee Stadium once the contract for the Pinstripe Bowl runs out.

Capitals center Jeff Halpern was among many who suggested the National Mall for when Washington does get a Winter Classic, something Leonsis also shot down.

“It is not feasible,” Leonsis wrote. “There aren’t enough common areas to build out seats. and the expense involved to create locker rooms; icestands and studios are prohibitive.”

Nationals owner Mark Lerner owns a share of the Capitals, making Nationals Park the likely favorite for a D.C. site.