The start of the 2015 Winter Classic was in limbo because of the glare of the sun coming off the ice. Karl Alzner even wore sunglasses, and many other players wore eye-black.
That would be enough to keep the start of the game on time, and from there on it was everything that the NHL could have hoped for, it not better.
The NHL truly turned the field of Nationals Park into a beauty with the ice rink and a mock Capital building. The D.C. fans packed the park early and were loud.
The ice? Well, the mid-40 degree weather didn’t affect it as many players and broadcasters said that it was the best ice in a Winter Classic to date.
And then there was the game.
Jan 1, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; A general view of Nationals Park after the Washington Capitals defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the third period during the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
From the start, fans in the park and watching on TV could see that there was almost a playoff-like atmosphere.
Players from both teams were fired up. There was fast skating, heavy hitting and an abundance of shots right from the first puck drop.
After the Washington Capitals jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period – including a goal from Alex Ovechkin – the Chicago Blackhawks did what any title-contending team would do: fight back.
The Blackhawks tied the game up in the second period, and from there on the two teams played in a fierce deadlock.
And just as some of Washington’s best fans showed out for the game, the Capitals’ best player and one of the most marketable players in the NHL showed out.
Ovechkin played one of his better games of the season on New Year’s Day. To go with his goal, The Great 8 had four hits and added three more shots. Even from the TV, you could tell that the game meant a lot to him. The NBC broadcast kept showing him fired up even when he was on the bench.
And his toughness paid off as he was credited with assisting Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal with 12.9 seconds remaining. Although it wasn’t your ordinary assist off of a pass, Ovechkin had just had a shot blocked and broke his stick trying to get the put-back. The puck drifted right to Brouwer, who finished the game.
Yesterday’s Winter Classic was truly a win-win for the NHL and the city of Washington. The NHL made a great scene in Nationals Park and was able to get the game started on-time with great performances from Billy Idol and Gavin DeGraw.
And Washington won both on and off the ice. The Capitals earned a tough win with great play from their best players, and the fans were loud early and often.
And with such a big win, maybe this is what the Capitals needed to truly get on the right path this season.