What’s not to love about the NHL’s annual outdoor hockey extravaganza known as the Winter Classic? It’s a great event that unites hardcore and casual fans in what is truly the best annual celebration of a sport going. The Super Bowl doesn’t celebrate the sport of football as well as the Winter Classic espouses the joys of hockey. With the ancillary coverage, throwback sweaters, and incredible visuals, it’s a fantastic pep rally for a sport so near to many of our hearts. As postulated on this very web site, the Capitals may be hosting a Classic in the next two or three years in one of our excellent stadiums.
It’s no secret the Capitals are big and getting bigger here in Baltimore. I don’t know anyone in the 410 who loves the Caps as much as I do (my self-imposed vacation was a complete failure, by the way). And still, I feel the beginnings of an anxiety attack when I think about my favorite team playing on national television in my favorite city on New Year’s Day 2014 or 2015.
This whole dilemma stems from the fact that aside from something creative (and unfeasible) like playing on the National Mall, there isn’t a no-brainer venue around the nation’s capital. This is the reason this has been a hot topic for debate the last two years. By the way, whoever thought of playing on the National Mall is kind of a mad genius, and I still think you could throw enough money at the problem to make it work. Clean, soulless Nationals Park with the silhouette of the Capitol looming might be the other best option in D.C. It’s not unlike Citizens Bank Park, which looked good if nondescript in Monday’s Rangers-Flyers tilt. Basically, Oriole Park were located in Northwest D.C., this wouldn’t even be up for discussion.
However, it is very much up for discussion. It makes me cringe to read the comments and message board posts on Capitals sites when the idea of a Baltimore-hosted Winter Classic is broached. It seems that many Capitals fans (those in Northern Virginia particularly) don’t think much of Charm City. They weren’t jazzed about the first preseason game this season being hosted in our dinky, hot little barn. Having Baltimore host the NHL’s signature event “on behalf” of the Capitals is offensive to the idea that the Caps are Washington’s team. To each their own, I suppose. I try and remind people of this all the time, but the three stars in the Capitals’ primary logo represent D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. This is where things get hairy when you have such a regionally popular entity as the Capitals. If the DMV were the Gaza Strip, the Capitals would be the hummus: the one thing most of us can agree on.
I think this summer’s inaugural Grand Prix proved that Baltimore is physically capable of hosting such a big event, but economically we probably have bigger fish to fry. Perhaps it would be an opportunity for Baltimore to show that it’s more than what’s portrayed in the television programs of David Simon. Maybe Baltimore could start to become one of those sneaky-great U.S. cities that cool people talk about (like Nashville and Minneapolis). It’d be an opportunity to seize the spotlight and show the world we can host a great sporting event. It’d also be a prime opportunity for everyone who has something bad to say about Baltimore to take a supreme New Year’s Day dump on our city. We’re a town in transition. We don’t thrive on that type of scrutiny. We’re not Philadelphia.
Don’t get me wrong, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in particular would be a beautiful, intimate place to see an outdoor hockey game. I love things that are convenient to me, so nothing would make me happier than parking at my office on Howard Street and walking down to see my favorite team play in a once in a lifetime event. See? I’m starting to talk myself into it again. Why don’t we just play Calvert Hall vs. Loyola ice hockey there instead?
I love the things that I love but it freaks me out when they intersect. This level of synergy would definitely push me to my sporting limits. Pile that on to the fact that I feel the need to defend Baltimore relentlessly even when my house in my very safe neighborhood gets shot. I’m not really up for 11 months of defending my city to fellow Caps fans or defending the Caps to fellow Baltimoreans. So, does this make me an insecure Baltimorean or an insecure Capitals fan?
I assume both.
Dave Gilmore lives in Baltimore and writes “The Win Column” for Baltimore Sports Report. He is currently working on a novel about college football. Find him on Twitter @dave_gilmore or visit his web site at davegilmorejr.com