NEW YORK - The Washington Capitals will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs outdoors at the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. The game will take place on March 3, 2018, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced in his annual State of the League press conference today. Over the next several years, the League plans to stage a series of outdoor games at the venues of the other respective U.S. Service Academies.
The Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs have faced each other 141 regular-season games since 1975-75, with Capitals holding a 24-point edge (WSH 71-54-16-158; TOR 60-67-14-134). The Capitals and Maple Leafs lone post-season matchup took place during the First Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup® Playoffs, won by Washington in six games. All six games were decided by one goal, with five contests requiring overtime.
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"The Maple Leafs and Capitals will make their respective Coors Light NHL Stadium Series debuts in our inaugural outdoor game at a U.S. Service Academy," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The energy and excitement will be extraordinary at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium when these teams resume the rivalry that reached new heights during their First Round playoff series this past April."
In March 2018, the Capitals will be making their third appearance in a regular-season outdoor game. The Capitals are undefeated in their two previous outdoor appearances, earning a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® at National Park in Washington and a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
"We look forward to welcoming the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans to beautiful Annapolis next March for the first-ever outdoor hockey game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium," Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis said. "Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will be a unique and historic setting for fans from all across our region to experience what promises to be a great hockey game. We are honored to have the opportunity to play at one of the very best institutions our region, and our country, have to offer - the United States Naval Academy."
Next season's game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will be the third outdoor matchup for the Maple Leafs, who are also undefeated in their previous two outdoor contests, which were both played against the Detroit Red Wings. Toronto defeated Detroit 3-2 in a shootout win at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor - in front of a record attendance of 105,491. The Maple Leafs again defeated the Red Wings earlier this season outdoors at the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic™ for a 5-4 victory at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.
"The Toronto Maple Leafs look forward to competing in another memorable outdoor game," said Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan. "Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will provide an exciting and unique experience for the Maple Leafs organization and our fans."
Additional details on the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ - including broadcast and ticketing information, and other events surrounding the game - will be announced in the coming months.
The Capitals and the Maple Leafs showcase some of the League's top talent. The Capitals feature team Captain and three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, Alexander Ovechkin, season points leader Nicklas Backstrom (86 points), and goaltender Braden Holtby, who most recently led the Capitals to win the Presidents' Trophy (with 118 points) for the NHL team's best record for the second consecutive season in 2016-17. The Toronto Maple Leafs feature top scorers Auston Matthews (69 points), James van Riemsdyk (62 points), and Nazem Kadri (61 points).
"The history and tradition of the U.S. Naval Academy, combined with some of the best hockey players in the world, will make this game memorable," said Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director. "Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is a special place that the Players will remember forever."
"The League has done a tremendous job of making the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series one of the marquee sporting events of the year," said David Kroll, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors. "Bringing the game to an iconic venue like Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will make it even more memorable for everyone involved. We look forward to raising a Coors Light in honor of the commitment and passion of everyone involved in the game, from the players to the fans."
"Our gratitude to the NHL and their administration for allowing us to host this special event and tribute to the military, and most especially the Naval Academy," U.S. Naval Academy Director of Athletics, Chet Gladchuk said. "Conducting this matchup in Annapolis will allow us to bring together our midshipmen, many from the Fleet, and the local community to enjoy a day of exciting action and add another chapter in the annals of our stadium's history."
Located in historic Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845 and prepares young men and women to become professional officers and leaders in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium first opened on Sept. 26, 1959. The stadium was funded by thousands of dedicated alumni, sailors, marines and friends of the United States Naval Academy. The stadium was later renovated and transformed into a state-of-the-art multiuse facility hosting Navy football, sprint football and men's and women's lacrosse as well as the annual Military Bowl. The memorial aspects of the original structure, including hundreds of memorial plaques, were preserved and enhanced during the renovations, allowing visitors to chronologically view the story of the brave men and women who we honor for their service to our country.