Capitals players celebrate after a goal. Image courtesy of NHL.com
The NHL holds a series of games played outdoors every season which are enjoyed by millions nationwide. 2014 marked the start of the annual Stadium Series, a competition between two teams at a predetermined outdoor location in America. Each Stadium Series has been played on a sheet of ice built onto the field of another professional or college sports team.
This year’s Stadium Series was a meeting between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “This has been the first ever regular season outdoor game played at a service academy,” according to NHL.com. This fight between the two teams was long anticipated and meant to be an all-out battle after they met in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which Washington won 4-2.
According to Japer’s Rink, a total of almost 30,000 watched the two teams go head-to-head as the cold winds picked up on the night of March 3. Weather conditions were at an average low of 37 degrees fahrenheit in Annapolis as fans watched on.
Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season as he led his team to their outdoor win. Other Capitals goals included those of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, and Jakub Vrana while Zach Hyman and Nazem Kadri netted the two Maple Leafs goals according to SportsNet. The Capitals victory was backed by a 27-save performance by goaltender Braden Holtby.
According to NHL.com, this game was the 25th outdoor game in the league’s history.
Prior to this game, the Capitals won their two Winter Classic contests. In 2011, the Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 with a goal scored by Mike Knuble, and two by Eric Fehr according to Sports Illustrated. In 2015, they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 with goals from Eric Fehr, Alexander Ovechkin, and Troy Brouwer according to NHL.com.
Due to D.C.’s close proximity to Maryland, many residents are Capitals fans. A vast number of fans were able to attend the Stadium Series to watch their team play in their own home state. “The atmosphere and all of the fans were unbelievable. Seeing a game outdoors does not compare to a regular season indoor game,” said Boys’ Latin student Henry Hutzler who attended the game.
Washington fans rallied as they watched their team fight for victory under the stars. “It was an unforgettable memory of a lifetime,” said Hutzler. The Capitals have continued their streak of outdoor wins and made history in Maryland’s first NHL game by giving fans a night to remember.