2015 Winter Classic pits storied franchise vs league’s best scorer

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The 2015 Winter Classic will be hosted by the nation’s capital as the Washington Capitals face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. The New Year’s Day marquee game will be the first hosted in Washington D.C. It will be the second appearance for each team. Chicago also hosted a Stadium Series game last season.

The Winter Classic is now in it’s 7th edition, and has grown into something much larger than one game.

“I noticed today just counting up, since our first NHL outdoor telecast at Ralph Wilson Stadium, that was seven years ago there have been 110 of these games played,” said Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, NBC’s play-by-play announcer for the Winter Classic. “Hershey Park Stadium, Red Square, nine other countries, Mexico City, and 17 of the 110 have been at Fenway Park.  It has taken on quite a life and each one of them has its own set of memories and I know this one will, too.”

Emrick has called each Winter Classic since it’s inception in 2008.

Quality of play has been questioned in past Classics. Rain, freezing rain, snow, wind and sun have mired play. Emrick has heard many stories about many subjects. One story stuck out to him during the phone conference for the Winter Classic.

“I’ll never forget talking to Paul Devorski after the game in Pittsburgh which had been postponed by rain to the evening, and it rained almost during the entire game,” said Emrick.

“And he told me during one of the wildest rainiest moments of the night, he happened to be standing next to a faceoff circle next Sidney Crosby and he just said, ‘Kind of rough, isn’t it.’And Sid said, ‘It’s fine. We can play.’ They are not allowed to play unless it’s safe.”

The Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals are in their second go-round in the Winter Classic, as mentioned earlier. That does not sit well without a lot of people looking at the Classic as more than ratings or a financial boon for the league. Fans and critics have the right to clamor for “new blood” with so many other good teams and others on the rise.

That said, these teams draw and the lead to numerous talking points. The Chicago Blackhawks have had sustained success for the last five years, winning two Stanley Cups and were one shot away from returning to a third. They are consistently at the top of the standings, and (still) young superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are as popular as ever.

The Washington Capitals has been the home of Alex Ovechkin since he was drafted first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. His scoring ability makes him the most dangerous shooter on the ice, and his puck possession abilities lead to some of the prettier goals you’ll see. His machismo draws the ire of some hockey purists, but it also has attracted fans from all points of the world to D.C.

“Does Ovechkin get some of that credit?  Absolutely,” said Pierre McGuire, NBC color analyst for the Winter Classic.

“He’s a stand-alone star worldwide.  It’s not just in Washington:  It’s in Canada; it’s in Russia; it’s in Sweden; it’s in Finland; I’ve been with him in some of these countries.  It’s phenomenal the drawing power he has in more than just one city but around the world.”

The Winter Classic has been and will continue to be the showcase of the NHL during the regular season. No matter what you think about the teams, the players or the scenarios that they are put in, the Winter Classic will be watched by millions New Year’s Day.

Jeff is a production assistant @120Sports and contributor to hockey, football, and baseball for The Sports Bank. Follow him on Twitter @skcih_ffej.

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