NHL Winter Classic: A History in Photos

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The NHL on Wednesday announced that the 2015 Winter Classic, the league’s signature event, will be played at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on New Year’s Day. The game will match the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals in the seventh overall Winter Classic and the fourth to be played in a baseball stadium.

Both teams are making their second all-time appearances in the event, which gives us an excuse to take a look back at each of the Winter Classic venues and participants, as well as the glorious photos that preserve their memories.

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2008: The Venue

The Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium hosted the inaugural Winter Classic on January 1, 2008. A then-record crowd for an NHL game of 71,217 spectators watched the hometown Sabres take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, shattering the old mark of 57,167.

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2008: The Game

The Penguins won the first Winter Classic, 2-1, in a shootout on a goal from star Sidney Crosby. The visitors were in the midst of what would become a season-best eight-game winning streak and eventually advanced to the Stanley Cup Final that year.

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2009: The Venue

The second Winter Classic took place at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The event drew 40,818 fans to the Friendly Confines for a battle of two Original Six franchises in a contest between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings.

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2009: The Game

In the highest-scoring game of any of the Winter Classics by far — the 10 combined goals doubled that of any other contest — the Red Wings came away with a  6-4 victory over the Blackhawks. Five different Detroit players scored in the game, led by Jiri Hudler with a pair of goals.

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2010: The Venue

Boston’s legendary Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, was the site of the 2010 Winter Classic. The game pitted the local Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers. A crowd of 38,112 was on hand to watch the festivities.

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2010: The Game

Marco Sturm’s overtime goal gave the Bruins a 2-1 win over the Flyers, marking the first time a home team won the Winter Classic. Philadelphia would get revenge just four months later when the teams met in the postseason, rallying from a 3-0 series deficit to shock Boston in seven games en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

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2011: The Venue

The NHL’s fourth Winter Classic returned to a football stadium for the first time since the event debuted in 2008. The Pittsburgh Penguins — who participated in that 2008 event also — were hosts this time, utilizing Heinz Field, home of the Steelers. The Penguins faced off against the Washington Capitals in front of an audience of 68,111.

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2011: The Game

In a game postponed until the evening due to weather, Evgeni Malkin’s second-period goal gave the home team a 1-0 lead, but the Capitals scored the final three goals of the contest to beat the Penguins, 3-1. Eric Fehr led Washington with two goals in the primetime game.

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2012: The Venue

The 2012 Winter Classic was held in Philadelphia, at the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park. This was the first such event not to take place on New Year’s Day, as the holiday fell on a Sunday. Instead, it featured the Flyers taking on the New York Rangers on Monday, January 2. Attendance was announced at 46,967.

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2012: The Game

The Flyers led 2-1 going into the final period, but the Rangers’ Mike Rupp tied things up with his second goal of the day, and Brad Richards scored the eventual game-winner less than three minutes later in New York’s 3-2 victory. Philadelphia had a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds remaining to try and force overtime, but Henrik Lundqvist stopped Danny Briere’s attempt and saved the victory.

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2014: The Venue

The 2012-2013 NHL lockout, which wasn’t resolved until mid-January, forced the cancellation of that season’s planned Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Instead, the teams met the next year — on January 1, 2014 — in the same location. The event smashed the league’s attendance record, as a bundled-up crowd of 105,491 jammed the Big House to see the Wings and Leafs.

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2014: The Game

The Red Wings scored with less than six minutes remaining to force overtime. Detroit actually outshot the visitors 43-26 on the day, but ultimately, it was the Maple Leafs that won the 2014 Winter Classic, 3-2, in a shootout. The record-setting environment was the story, though, with even losing coach Mike Babcock calling the day a “home run for hockey.”

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2015: The Venue

The next iteration of the Winter Classic will take place in Washington, D.C., and it’s sure to be another success for Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL. “Nationals Park provides an ideal setting for all the excitement, entertainment, and fun as the Blackhawks and Capitals bring our outdoor tradition to historic Washington, D.C.,” Bettman said.

While there’s no way the attendance count can finish near six figures, not every year is going to take place in a 100,000-seat college football stadium. And with the history the National Hockey League has made since the Winter Classic began in 2008, the 2015 edition is sure to be just as memorable as its predecessors.