June 2, 2020

Winter Classic: The fan experience


The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks line up for introductions before the Winter Classic, Jan. 1, 2015. (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)

I moved back to Sweet Home Chicago from Washington, DC in 2011, but that hasn’t stopped me from keeping up with the Washington Capitals. I’m that weird person who shows up to Chicago Blackhawks viewing parties in a John Carlson t-shirt and drives a car with a custom Capitals-dedicated Illinois license plate. Thankfully, all my Blackhawks fan friends understand, and I’ve even convinced some of them to change any negative opinions of the Capitals and their players. They, however, have been unsuccessful in convincing me to like the song “Chelsea Dagger.”

Even when it was only a rumor that Washington, DC would be hosting the 2015 Winter Classic, I knew I had to go. When that rumor was confirmed by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during the 2013 Capitals Convention, I made a mental note to save up for the trip.

On New Year’s Day, my boyfriend (a Blackhawks fan) and I ascended the escalator out of the Navy Yard Metro station and encountered a huge mass of people. Initially, we were hoping to get into the “fan experience” area in the Bullpen, but the line to get in stretched around the block, and security was being stingy with allowing people to enter. Instead, we met up with some friends at a local bar, and around 11:30am, we headed toward the entrance of Nationals Park.

The line to get into the park was long, but moved surprisingly quickly. After a quick bag check and wanding, we were in the ballpark gates in around 10 minutes. Despite the crush of people outside, the park was very maneuverable and never once felt claustrophobic. When we dropped by a concession stand to get some lunch, we were shocked by the incredibly short lines.


A display outside section 102 of Nationals Park during the 2015 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks. (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)

In Section 102, we found our seats and discovered we were seated next to two Blackhawks fans who had traveled from the Quad Cities in Illinois to be there. Everyone in the section was incredibly friendly and just happy to be attending such an event. My section was not the only one without conflict: Capitals fan Abram Fox, sitting in Section 133, “found the entire atmosphere to be positive.”

The execution of the event was nearly flawless. I never stood in line for concessions or a beer vendor, and amazingly, I never encountered a line at the restroom. Even when I stopped at the merchandise store during the second intermission (mostly to avoid hearing Lee Greenwood), the store was crowded but orderly, and cashier lines were swift and efficient.

The only snag I ran into had to do with the ushers. As I was returning to my seat after grabbing a beer, I was about to head down the aisle, as there was a stoppage in play, when the usher stopped me and said I had to wait for the whistle. As I mentioned, play was already stopped. I looked at the usher, a little confused, and said, “But they’re not playing right now.” He was insistent, and so was I. Finally, he caved and let me go before the next faceoff. Others reported similar experiences with ushers. I don’t really blame the ushers — they’d probably never ushered a hockey game before in their lives.

Despite the usher situation, the entire Winter Classic experience was incredible. Nationals Park looked beautiful, everyone was in very high spirits, and thankfully, we were treated to a very exciting game. My Blackhawks fan companion wasn’t happy with the score, but it didn’t put a damper on the day for him. He called it an “unforgettable” day.

Capitals celebrate the 4-3 win

The Washington Capitals celebrate a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2015 (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)


  1. […] • Documenting the Winter Classic fan experience. Which was actually pretty sweet. [District Sports Page] […]

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