My Journey to the Winter Classic

It’s 4:33 pm as I sit at the desk in my hotel room still donning the Chicago Blackahawks Jersey I purchased today.  It was memories my dad and I will remember for a lifetime that transpired in the past 24 hours.   My Journey kicked off in the morning of day 365 in 2014.

It was 8:00 am and my alarm went off as I awoke from my slumber only to find it New Years Eve, the day I was to depart for the Winter Classic.

At 11:12 am after a few sausage McGriddles and coffee, our road trip to DC was officially underway.

If anyone has traveled to DC coming from Virginia, the stop and go traffic on the highway is ridiculous about 90 miles outside of the city.  Traffic made a four and a half our trip extend another hour.

4:09 pm: We finally arrive to the hectic streets of Washington, DC navigating our way to the hotel.

4:16pm: After about a five hour drive including a few pit stops to take care of bodily functions and mild hunger, we arrive at the Holiday Inn Capitol.

7:27pm: We return from a pizza dinner at, as the cabby told us, “the best pizza place in the city.”  I couldn’t remember the name of the place if you told me.  However, I regretted sitting next to the door because it was constantly opening and closing.  It was the best pizza place in the city.

It was time to settle in for a mellow New Years Eve watching the ‘Canes lose on NHL Game Center.

12:00 am: The clock strikes midnight.  With only 2014 to kiss goodbye, the excitement level for what is about to transpire in the next hours was apparent.  We’ve almost made it.

Without an alarm, my body wakes up at 8:57 am as well as several times through the night.  The factors including either pure anticipation or my dad’s snoring, probably both.   The day for the NHL Winter Classic was finally upon us.

10:06 am:  We take the elevator to the lobby and we head to the first cab we see after stepping out of the hotel.  The wait is almost over.

At this point time has halted, it doesn’t matter.  I’m only looking at my phone to take pictures and take notes.  As we arrive to Nationals Park, the sound of live music plays from an outside lounge area that is usually occupied by Nationals supporters.  It most certainly is Rock the Red in DC.  I’ve never seen so many Ovechkin jerseys in one sitting.  Blackhawks jerseys are sparsely scattered through the crowd and blend in with the red sea of Capitals fans.

43 degrees Fahrenheit says the weather app on my phone.  It’s about 11 o’clock and they finally open the gates to let the fans to fill Nationals Park for the exciting day upon them.  We rush to the team store to grab a couple items before not being able to walk without bumping into someone.  We barely make it out in time.

We make our way to our seats for whatever reason and we pop a squat and snag some hot chocolate a vendor offers us.  It’s 11:41am.

We sit and wait for warm-ups to start as we continue to get colder.  My Toews start to get cold.  The shade is on us and there’s a slight breeze, which makes the conditions a little miserable.  I thought I was prepared but I was freezing under a North Face fleece, jersey, sweatshirt, long sleeve t-shirt, and pair of jeans.  I could have used some thermals.

The ice crew uncovers the foil layering on the ice and the excitement starts to really hit.  Music starts echoing through the sound system and out walk the Washington Capitals from the Washington Nationals dugout to centerfield to hit the ice.  Karl Alzner’s sunglasses were the real deal.

IMG_2520As the warm-ups transpire, seats begin to fill and the atmosphere really starts to set in.  I’m at the 2015 Winter Classic.  Although the seats weren’t the best for watching a game – I never understood why they did it in a baseball stadium – there was a clear look at the big screen.  Minus a crick from turning your head the entire game, it was all about the experience as a whole.

Mini Zambonis circle the ice as the players on both ends prepare for the outdoor contest ahead of them.

The teams are introduced in front of a mock capital building that was placed behind a small rink that the kids played on.  They take the ice after two fighter jets soared over Nationals Park for puck drop.

IMG_2522It was from the get go that both teams were inclined to make this a memorable Winter Classic.  Early on there was a skirmish that resulted in a Washington Capitals penalty, one of many for the afternoon for both sides.

With a stalemate halfway through the first period, it appears the elements may have had an impact.  At 12:59 of the first, Eric Fehr managed to score a sweet goal on a breakaway that resulted as the puck bounced past Brent Seabrook.

It didn’t take long for the Capitals to keep their momentum going as Ovechkin put one in the back of the net off of a nice rebound finding himself in good position.

Patrick Sharp was the one to answer for the Blackhawks as he netted one through traffic at 6:24 of the first.

As the first period draws to an end, I begin my epic quest for chicken fingers.  Let me tell you that that quest lasted the entire intermission, I couldn’t even get a refill for my hot chocolate the lines were so long.

The fans grew quiet as Brandon Saad evened up the score 3:15 into the second after a tic-tac-toe play from Hossa to Toews to Saad.

From then on both teams carried momentum until Jonathan Toews was called for hooking.  It was hard to say whether the call should have been made or not, which made it somewhat controversial especially for the timing of the game.  The result was a Troy Brouwer goal with 12.9 seconds left.  It’s hard to explain the sight because it was so hard to see from my seats, but you knew that the Capitals had won the game by the way the 43,000 fans erupted.

We managed to somehow get out of the arena without getting trampled.  We snagged a cab and headed back to the Holiday Inn Capitol.  It’s time to thaw out and head home in the morning.  What a great way to start 2015.

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2 thoughts on “My Journey to the Winter Classic

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