Off to a Good Start

The full view of the ice, taken from above where home plate would normally be.
The full view of the ice, taken from above where home plate would normally be.

Happy New Year!

For the second time in five years, I had the great good fortune to kick off a new year at the Winter Classic — the NHL’s big, annual outdoor hockey extravaganza. In 2011, my cousin Kate and I went to see the Caps play on the road in Pittsburgh, but this year’s game was much closer to home. About a mile and a half, in fact.

I went to the game with my brother Brian and sister-in-law Jen — and without our planned fourth, our little sister Eileen, whose sick nine-month-old kept her family home in Texas for the week. We started off the day at my place with cheesy ham & potato breakfast casserole and mimosas, followed by a lot of layering. (When all was said and done, I had on five shirts and a jacket, and two pairs of pants, socks, and gloves, along with a blanket and hand/foot warmers for backup.) That said, though, the weather was just about perfect — cold, but very sunny. Our seats were in the shade, so all of the extra warm things came in handy.

I can’t possibly cover everything that happened (it’s gotten late, and I am very, very tired) so I’ll just share some highlights and a bunch of photos:

  • I really liked the way the ice was set up — there was a model of the Capitol building with a frozen “reflecting pool” leading into the rink, and the whole thing was set inside a giant star.
  • The National Anthem ended with a flyover from two F16s, which was super-cool, and loud enough to rattle the upper deck of the ballpark — though I learned later from posts on Facebook, I would’ve had that same floor-shaking experience at home, as the planes went directly over my neighborhood.
  • Eric Fehr continues to be the guy who owns the Winter Classic. He scored twice in the Pittsburgh Classic, and opened the scoring today, with a nifty unassisted goal.
  • For as lame as the official entertainment was (Billy Idol, Gavin DeGraw, and Lee Greenwood), the in-game music was spot-on. In addition to some traditional organ stuff and the usual pump-up songs, the DJ (is that the right term?) mixed in a lot of the songs that Nationals players use for their walk-up music, which was fun.
  • The officiating was… not great. If you were watching at home, you may have heard a “Ref, you suck!” chant or two.
  • I got to be part of what will probably be the biggest unleashing of the fury that will ever take place.
  • When Troy Brouwer scored the game winning goal with 12 seconds left to go, the joint blew up. Everyone lost their damn minds — in the best way possible. Huge, huge exuberance, folks tossing their seat cushions into the air and onto the outfield.
  • The Caps are now the only team to ever win two Winter Classics!
  • They played “Bustin’ Loose” by Chuck Brown at the end of the game, which felt absolutely perfect. Celebrating with the Godfather of Go-go was a nice DC-centric touch, made even better in context at Nationals Park, as it’s also the song the Nats play for home runs.

So yeah, I’ve picked out a lot of non-hockey things to share. I’ll leave the actual game recapping to the pros: Japer’s Rink and Russian Machine Never Breaks. (And by pros, I mean the best fan blogs. Y’all know where to find the Washington Post stuff.)

And now for the photos…

There were giant, inflatable hockey players at the pregame fan fest.
There were giant, inflatable hockey players at the pregame fan fest.  That’s Brian (sporting his Caps Unibomber look) checking them out.
Jen's turn in the "put your face on the Blackhawks player body" thingy was photobombed by a "Let's Go Caps!" sign. Love it!
Jen’s turn in the “put your face on the Blackhawks player body” thingy was photobombed by a “Let’s Go Caps!” sign. Love it!
Our vantage point for the game, from section 406.
Our vantage point for the game, from section 406.
With Brian & Jen at our seats.
With Brian & Jen at our seats.
Kids (I think) wearing jerseys from all 30 NHL teams skated out a giant flag for the national anthem.
Kids (I think) wearing jerseys from all 30 NHL teams skated out a giant flag for the national anthem.
Jen (a Chicago native) was not so happy about the outcome, but I was!
Jen (a Chicago native) was not so happy about the outcome, but I was!
Stick salute from the Caps after the win.
Stick salute from the Caps after the win.
We celebrated the win back at my place with the wine from the Caps' first Winter Classic win in 2011.
We celebrated the win back at my place with the wine from the Caps’ first Winter Classic win in 2011.

On the way to the game, I said to Brian and Jen, in reference to 2011 Classic, “I don’t remember everything about the game, but I’ll never forget the experience.”

And, with another Winter Classic in the books, I can say without a doubt that it was once again unforgettable, and a great way to kick off the new year.

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