Kukla's Korner Hockey
Ted Leonsis is a self-made man who’s reached virtually every goal he’s set out to accomplish. While he remains focused on bringing a championship to the US capital, his main goal is to finish something he started over three decades ago after a life-changing experience.
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from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
For all the unfamiliar blanketing the Capitals – the pregame bus ride to a home game, the scores of family members in town during the regular season, even the relative hype surrounding a matchup with a Western Conference opponent – the players must also handle the unique experience of playing outdoors.
Rather than pressed against the boards, slamming them after every hit, fans sit hundreds of feet away. The distance causes their sound to travel in ways foreign to the skaters. Score a goal, wait a second, then hear the roar.
“It’s almost like a wave coming in,” said the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin, who’s played in five outdoor games since he was 18 – two in college and three in the NHL.
“Out in the middle of nowhere,” is how the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Matt Carle described it, because even inside a stadium stuffed with far more people than Verizon Center can hold, the ice is often silent. The glass blocks out any sound the wind didn’t already carry away.
from Corey Masisak of NHL.com,
When the Chicago Blackhawks were ascending to the top of the NHL, they had a franchise to measure themselves against, to model their progress after.
That franchise was the Detroit Red Wings, which was the elite organization in the League for a long time. Whether it was on-ice success or a wealth of intangible measures, the Blackhawks wanted what the Red Wings had.
It wasn't really until Chicago beat Detroit in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and won a second title that the little brother-big brother dynamic disappeared from that rivalry.
After two championships and four trips to the Western Conference Final in six seasons, the Blackhawks, along with the Los Angeles Kings, have become a franchise others measure themselves against. The Blackhawks will meet one of those teams Thursday in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park.
"I think the Blackhawks are probably the gold standard right now in the National Hockey League with success on the ice and success off the ice, having a strong following," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Hushed voices. Tear-filled eyes. Hoarse throats.
The Chicago Blackhawks are still struggling to put words to the enormous amount of grief they’ve experienced in the wake of Clint Reif’s death, but there’s an undeniable feeling of loss around the team right now.
A walk inside the visiting locker room at Nationals Park takes you past a stall carrying the name of the equipment manager who was found dead on Dec. 21 at age 34. The makeshift memorial was completely game-ready on Wednesday afternoon with one of the team’s white Winter Classic sweaters hanging in it and a pair of socks neatly folded below.
There will also be “CR” stickers on the back of the helmets worn by both the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals during Thursday’s game — reminders of a man whose presence will be greatly missed at the NHL’s signature event.
“He passed away, but it’s not like we’re going to forget about him,” said Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
This is not just another outdoor hockey game. Not to Washington. Not to the Capitals. Not to Brooks Laich.
Not long ago, the Capitals ranked near the bottom of the NHL in record and attendance. The players would joke they had an “S.O.S.” – a “sold-out section.”
“I remember my first couple years,” said Laich, whose first full seasons were 2005-06 and ’06-07. “You almost couldn’t give your tickets away. People were like, ‘Oh, hockey? No, it’s OK. I’m not interested.’ ”
Thanks to superstar Alex Ovechkin and a high-flying offense, the Capitals changed that. By 2009-10, they won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team, and they had a new kind of “S.O.S.” – a “sold-out season.” They had 100-percent capacity.
from Brendan Prunty of Rolling Stone,
"There are so many things that divide us, but nothing unites like a winning sports team," Leonsis says. "Those are magical moments. And that's what I envision winning a championship here will be like. This über-magical moment for the city. All of that is summed up by that sign: 'Now I Can Die In Peace.'"
So why do the dreams of another super-rich sports owner matter? Who cares that a man worth over a billion dollars wants to win a title (or ten)? Why should what Leonsis wants even register at all? It's simple: When Ted Leonsis wants something he usually gets it.
And that's the best place to start, really. Because on New Year's Day, Leonsis' Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL's annual Winter Classic. It is, on the surface, just another game; but to Leonsis, it's also something more – a showcase for the nation's capital, and the first of many big games he envisions the Caps playing in over the next few years.
"I think our fans appreciate that we went for it on the Winter Classic," Leonsis says. "But no one is going to cut us any slack at the end of the day if we don't win a Stanley Cup. They'll say, 'Nice job in doing all that.' But if we don't win a Stanley Cup, they'll consider me a failure."
NEW YORK (December 29, 3014) – NHL Network™, NHL.com and NHL Social’s™ programming plans for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, the outdoor game between the Chicago Blackhawks® and the Washington Capitals® at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA) will be filled with several days of exciting, in-depth coverage and activation across the National Hockey League’s media platforms.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at the Winnipeg Free Press,
For the first time, the crown jewel of the regular season isn't a matchup of long-time rivals. And it's at seven-year-old Nationals Park, not a historic stadium that attracts extra attention.
"I'm sure if you ask the Washington Capitals, there's probably more of a buzz there because it's in Washington and not in Chicago," Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook told the Chicago Sun-Times. "All the fanfare around it, we don't get to see that here."
This will be the eighth Winter Classic since the tradition began in Buffalo in 2008. According to NBC play-by-play broadcaster Mike Emrick, there have been 110 outdoor games since at various levels and in many countries, from Mexico to Russia.
This one is a chance for the NHL to shine the spotlight on Alex Ovechkin and the city of Washington, which has experienced a rejuvenation as a hockey town with the "Rock the Red" era Capitals, who have made the playoffs in seven of the past eight years.
Follow the Hawks and Caps through the regular season as they get ready to face off in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic outdoor game.
Watch below, scheduled to start at 10:00pm ET.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org