The Blackhawks are headed back outside.
The Hawks will visit the Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day to play in the Winter Classic, an NHL source said, confirming an initial report by TSN. It will be the Hawks’ third outdoor game and their second appearance in the Winter Classic, the NHL’s marquee regular-season event. It also means the Hawks likely will be part of HBO’s acclaimed ‘‘24/7’’ behind-the-scenes series leading up to the game.
The site of the game hasn’t been finalized, but Nationals Park is the most likely setting.
While it might seem unfair that no team west of Chicago or south of Washington has played in a Winter Classic (this will be the seventh), TV ratings obviously are a factor, and few teams bring the kind of built-in audience the Hawks do. A willing-to-travel fan base also will help ensure the game sells out.
This also will be the Capitals’ second appearance in the Winter Classic. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers each have played in two, as well.
The Hawks hosted the Red Wings at Wrigley Field in the second Winter Classic in 2009, losing 6-4. They hosted the Penguins at snowy Soldier Field on March 1 of this past season as part of the expanded ‘‘Stadium Series,’’ which is expected to be scaled back next season.
The Hawks’ complete regular-season schedule will be released Sunday.
NOTES: The Hawks’ full preseason schedule hasn’t yet been released, but it will feature a home-and-home series against the Red Wings (Sept. 23 at the United Center, Sept. 25 at Detroit), a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Sept. 28 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and a home game against the Montreal Canadiens.
† Start times for home games Monday through Saturday will be moved back to 7:30 p.m. next season, but home games Sunday night still will start at 6. Exceptions will be made for nationally televised games.