As our schedules fill up with Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, December brings even more dates for hockey holiday cheer - especially for those of us who rock the same color as that guy with the sleigh and flying reindeer. The Capitals will get into the spirit of the season this Sunday, December 5, when several players skate outside at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink for Community Day. The Community Day event kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with free hot chocolate to beat the chill and art stations set up for youngsters to show off their inner Picasso. At 11 a.m, Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Marcus Johansson will join assistant coach Dean Evason and Slapshot on the ice with the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink School skaters for a skills exhibition. They will start by incorporating the surrounding art into their skills, then transition to a hockey demonstration focusing on stickhandling, passing, agility and speed.
At noon, after the zamboni cut, the Caps players and Slapshot will take to the ice again to skate with the fans. The first 200 fans in line will receive free admission with $3.00 skate rentals for an hour-long open skate. If you have your own skates and are one of the first 200 people in line, you’ll skate for free! What a great way to get your hockey fix and enjoy the holiday scenery at the scenic Sculpture Gardens!
Of course December also starts the countdown to the Capitals' other outdoor event: The 2011 NHL Winter Classic. The league has an abundance of events planned during the month to build the buzz and excitement for what's become a New Year's Day tradition for most hockey fans.
In anticipation of the Jan. 1 game, here are some of the dates fans can take note of and add to their already stuffed-like-a-holiday-turkey calendars:
· Dec. 2: The January 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, which includes a spotlight on Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and their face-off at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles Thursday, December 2, and nationwide on Tuesday, December 7. Famed photographer Bruce Weber shot Crosby and Ovechkin for the magazine and VF.com, which will feature behind-the-scenes video of the shoot, additional photos and a special Q&A with Crosby on Monday, December 6.
· Dec. 3: The first recipe in a series of NHL Winter Classic-themed recipes created by Food Network star and hockey fan Duff Goldman debuts at NHL.com. The recipe series will help fans tailgating at Heinz Field or watching the live broadcast at home on New Year’s Day celebrate the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic tradition.
· Dec. 5: The special 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic commercial premieres during NBC’s national “Sunday Night Football” broadcast as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
· Dec. 10: “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” billboard unveiled in New York City’s Times Square at the busy 42nd St. and Broadway corner.
· Dec. 15: “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” highlighting the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals and their preparation for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, premieres at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.
· Dec. 22: Episode 2 of “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” airs at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.
· Dec. 23: In their first meeting of the season, the Penguins and Capitals face off at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., broadcast nationally, live on the NHL Network for fans outside of Pittsburgh and Washington.
· Dec. 23: Following the Carolina Panthers v. Pittsburgh Steelers game, the rink build for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic officially begins at Heinz Field and the official time lapse camera coverage begins on NHL.com.
· Dec. 24: The world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit – the custom-built 53-foot truck that houses the specialized equipment that will be used to make the rink for the NHL Winter Classic – arrives at Heinz Field; beginning Dec. 24, fans can follow the entire rink-build process through interactive features and extensive coverage on NHL.com, NHL Radio and the NHL Network.
· Dec. 29: Episode 3 of “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” airs at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.
· Dec. 31: Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals skate at Heinz Field for the first time for team practices.
· Dec. 31: The NHL will install a “NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom” at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom is a philanthropic partnership with The Companion’s in Courage Foundation and NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine. The NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom will be an interactive playroom utilizing innovative communications tools (Cisco WebX and UMI, SMART Tables, SMART Boards, Flat panel televisions, etc). This classroom will replace the isolation of a hospital with a connection to family, friends and celebrities during each hospital stay. During the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, some of the game’s youngest fans with have the ability to connect with activities and players.
As the song goes, "it's the most wonderful time of the year"... happy hockey holidays everyone.