PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play outdoors next season at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on March 3, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Monday.
The game will be part of the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
"If you've ever seen an Army-Navy football game, you can just imagine what that setting will be like outside," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. "Annapolis is such a fun town, so I'm sure it will be good for the community and also the people coming in from Washington, D.C., that take buses or drive up there. So it will be very, very festive. Anything we can do to support the NHL and our armed services, count us in."
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The date of the game has historical significance, Commissioner Bettman said.
"Just imagine for a second the Navy band playing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' on the field because that will be 87 years to the day that President [Herbert] Hoover signed the legislation that made it the U.S. national anthem," he said.
Bettman also said the game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will launch a series of Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games at the U.S. Military Academies over the next few seasons.
The Capitals and Maple Leafs met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in the Eastern Conference First Round this season. The Capitals won the best-of-7 series in six games, with each game decided by one goal and five requiring overtime.
This will be the third outdoor game for each team. The Capitals defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in front of a record crowd of 105,491 at Michigan Stadium and won 5-4 in overtime against the Red Wings in the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
Video: The Stadium Series heads to Annapolis next season
Holding the game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will have particular meaning for Leonsis because his father, Louis, who died in 2007, served in the U.S. Navy for seven years. Additionally, the Capitals have a long-standing relationship with the Naval Academy, which is about a 40-minute drive from Washington.
The Capitals have visited the academy on multiple occasions to hold team-building exercises.
"Washington, D.C., is where all the armed services are headquartered and we've been active with the military and Wounded Warriors and the USO, so it seems appropriate," Leonsis said. "My father was in the Navy, and I have to say I have a real affinity for the Naval Academy. It's really a spectacular place and I'm glad we're playing."
When Leonsis heard the NHL was considering playing at the Naval Academy, he said he immediately offered to have the Capitals be the host team. This will be the first time a U.S. service academy will host an NHL outdoor game.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which opened on Sept. 26, 1959, and was renovated during a four-year period from 2002-05, was funded by alumni, sailors, marines and friends of the Naval Academy. The memorial aspects of the stadium, including the Memorial Plaque Wall and battle arches, allow visitors to chronologically view the story of the men and women who have served the country.
"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 in a statement. "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."
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium's capacity of 34,000 is smaller than most of the previous venues that have hosted an outdoor game, but Leonsis said he believes the atmosphere will make it a special day.
"We had such a great experience with the Winter Classic in D.C," Leonsis said. "Our organization really knows how to mobilize and be great hosts and sell a lot of tickets and I think it will be a spectacular setting. It will be very, very loud, and for us to support all of the men and women in the service will be terrific."