2015 Winter Classic

Winter Classic Memories: Late winner has extra special meaning for Brouwer

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Every Tuesday in December we’ll be looking back at some Winter Classic memories as we approach the 2020 game on Jan. 1 between the Stars and Predators from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

Alex Ovechkin recalled after the 2015 Winter Classic that Troy Brouwer, who was a Blackhawks rookie during the 2009 edition at Wrigley Field, told his Capitals teammates that the New Year’s Day outdoor game was a “good time to show up and make a show.”

Brouwer would back up his words and help the Capitals to a 3-2 win over his old Blackhawks teammates in front of 42,832 fans at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. His goal with 12.9 seconds left in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and spoiled Chicago’s hopes of completing a comeback after going down 2-0 after the first period.

The goal earned the Capitals two points and made Brouwer the hero for the day. But the Winter Classic experience meant much more to the then 29-year-old forward. Among the many friends and family members of the players that were in the crowd that afternoon was his father, Don, who had not seen him play live since 2010.

Don Brouwer suffered a serious stroke in April 2010, a few days before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was in a coma for six days, needed emergency surgery for a brain blood clot, had difficulty walking, and his vision was affected. Troy got on a plane once he received the news and flew to Vancouver where he stayed with his father, who was unconscious at the time. Brouwer told the Blackhawks he would be gone until his dad woke up.

Fortune worked out for the family when the Blackhawks met the Canucks in Round 2 that postseason, meaning Brouwer could visit his dad as he recovered. When Chicago went on to win the Stanley Cup that spring, Don celebrated his son’s achievement with friends from his hospital bed. 

Later that summer, when Troy had his day with the Cup, he brought it the hospital for the medical personnel who helped Don through the entire process. Nearly five years later, Don was inside Nationals Park watching his son play in person.

With Jonathan Toews in the box and 20 seconds to go in regulation, Alex Ovechkin carried the puck into the Blackhawks’ zone. He first shot attempt was blocked by the skates of Brent Seabrook. In the split-second the defenseman lost sight of the puck, Ovechkin recovered it, but his follow-up attempt failed when Brandon Saad slashed and snapped his stick in half. 

As a 5-on-3 power play was pending for the Capitals, Brouwer quickly scooped up the loose puck, spun and fired a shot by Corey Crawford.

“It was one of those where you just know the time, you know the score and you’re just trying to get a puck on net,” Brouwer said afterward. “Thankfully, it went in.”

“For Troy, with his dad coming here, it is a real special occasion just with that,” said Capitals forward Eric Fehr. “For him to score that goal at the end to get the win, he has to be feeling unbelievable right now.”

Brouwer hadn’t spoken with his dad as he met the media following the game, but he did see there was a text waiting for him and could imagine how emotional Don was at the moment.

The Winter Classic is always a special time for those involved. It comes at the end of the holiday season and friends and family are around adding to the memorable experience. For the Brouwers, New Year’s Day 2015 could not have been any more perfect.

“It’s pretty special,” Brouwer said. “I’ve had some good moments in my hockey career, but this one, with all the intangibles, that played a part in it. My parents being able to come into town, playing against my former team, this being the first goal that I scored against my former team and the dramatic fashion at the end of the game of how everything played out.  

“It’s going to be a memorable day, a memorable event. The entire lead up to this has been a lot of fun and the finish couldn’t have worked out any better for us as a team and me personally.”

NBC will air the 2020 NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas, at 1 p.m. ET.

PREVIOUSLY:
The snow storm at The Big House
• Syvret’s first NHL goal comes at Fenway Park

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Wolski shows off nice hands in shootout goal

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Wojtek Wolsk, who now plays for Torpedo Nizhny Novgoro in the KHL, showed off his soft hands during the shooutout in a recent game against HC Dynamo Moscow.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

NHL Winter Classic: Setting up rinks a shared passion for father and son (The Washington Post)

Kings’ defenseman Alec Martinez admits contract talks are in the back of his mind (L.A. Kings Insider)

Did the Devils contact Adam Oates without permission? NHL and Capitals consider case closed (The Bergen Record)

Sharks’ Nieto set for return after missing 9 games (CSN Bay Area)

Travis Green and Mike Stothers named coaches for AHL All-Star Classic (The AHL)

Curtis Lazar and Connor McDavid: Junior hockey’s odd couple (Toronto Star)

What can the NHL do to get more fans? (The Hockey News)

Canadian gold-medal Olympic men’s hockey team named CP Team of the Year (The Canadian Press)

Video: 2015 Winter Classic heads to the nation’s capital

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The 2015 NHL Winter Classic heads to Washington D.C. as the Capitals will square off against the Blackhawks on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. on NBC.

Report: Four or five outdoor games possible in 2014-15

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With the announcement that the Washington Capitals will host the 2015 Winter Classic, without an opponent or location mind you, thoughts turn to what other places may see an outdoor game next season.

Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal and Daily reports the 2014-15 season could see four or five outdoor games happen, similar to what’s going on this season. With the Winter Classic already chosen, another Heritage Classic could be on the way as well as more Stadium Series-like events.

But where could we see things happen? Here are a few ideas.

Beaver Stadium — State College, Pennsylvania

This has been kicked around for some time to have an all-Pennsylvania showdown between the Penguins and Flyers at Penn State’s legendary football stadium. The deal to make something happen there has reportedly hit some snags. If the Flyers wind up in the 2015 Winter Classic against the Capitals, as has been rumored possible, you can pretty much nix this one from happening sooner than not.

Cowboys Stadium — Dallas, Texas

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to have his massive stadium play host to an outdoor game. Meanwhile, Stars TV man Darryl Reaugh says they’ll get a Winter Classic in the next three years. Hmm… With the Stars doing their part to become more relevant, they’d make a great host, but don’t expect them to “settle” on a Stadium Series game.

Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Twin Cities have been clamoring for an outdoor game basically since the inception of the Winter Classic. They’re going to get an outdoor game one of these years, the question is: How big of a game? If they want one right away, a Stadium Series game at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, would be an instant hit.

That said, Minnesota fans will pack out any stadium for outdoor hockey and the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team, TCF Bank Stadium, could fill out easily for a Winter Classic. If the Vikings’ new stadium is built (tentative opening in 2016), that would all but guarantee a Winter Classic in Minnesota… If it had a retractable roof. D’oh!

AT&T Park — San Francisco, California

The Stadium Series has shown they don’t fear California weather as the Kings and Ducks will play at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles this year. The Sharks want an outdoor game badly and the home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park, would make for one of the most picturesque settings for a game.

Weather in the Bay Area is already winter-like during the summer. This seems like a no-brainer to do and the Sharks would likely have their pick of opponents wanting to play there.