Kasten on Winter Classic prospects
I will continue to pound on the Winter Classic drum like Alexander Semin at a hippy bongo circle, because it would be an unforgettable D.C. sports experience, and you can never have too many of those. Dan Shaughnessy wrote last month that you should look for the '11 game to be at Nats Park, and the New England Hockey Journal called Nats Park "a favorite."
(This led DCist to say "D.C. Favored," which was cited by NESN.com, which used the word "likely." The hockey-loving D.C. Council said our fair city is being "strongly considered," according to "reports in the Boston Globe," though all I see is that Shaughnessy column, which doesn't use the words "strongly considered" after all.)
In any case, this was enough smoke for The Fan 590 in Toronto to call up Nats Prez Stan Kasten this week. Host Bob McCown, who has apparently interviewed Kasten many times in the past, immediately brought up that issue.
"Well, I read those reports," Kasten said. "The Winter Classic, what a fantastic spectacle the NHL has built it into. We all watched this year, and in years past. It's just been great. So I think someday we would love to have it in D.C. I think we can host it really well, but I have no idea if it will be next year or not. I'm sure there are other teams that would like it as well. I think we do talk to people in the sport. If there ever comes a time when they see fit to bring it in Washington, and I hope that's soon, we'd love to have it at Nationals Park, but I cannot tell you that that's gonna be happening."
The follow-up question was whether Kasten has talked to Ted Leonsis about the possibility.
"Oh, Ted and I have talked about it, sure," Kasten said, "but everybody in every city talks about it. I think it's a fun rumor, it's a fascinating rumor, [but] I really do think you're jumping a little bit ahead.....Listen, I'm sure half the teams, all the teams except those in the Sun Belt would love to someday host a Winter Classic, for sure. and I don't think I'd be telling tales out of school to tell you that Ted -- who is a master showman -- would love to do that, too. I think it would be great for our city, and great for our ballpark, and together we'd do a hell of a job...."
"The spectacle as it has evolved over the last few years is fantastic, another great coup for the NHL," he later continued. "There's no city in which the sport is hotter than D.C. right now. I'll tell you what, I went to a game a couple weeks ago, every single person in the building has a red jersey on; 75 percent of them are Ovechkin but there are other names sprinkled in. And I asked Ted, is it jersey night or something? He said no, this is how people come every single night, on their own. It's become such a tremendous part of our town, and I think the NHL would do really well to capitalize on that with a Winter Classic right here in the nation's capital."
The conversation then turned to baseball matters, which I suppose I might as well include. How long, Kasten was asked, until his own club could capture some of that D.C. excitement?
"Right around the corner buddy," Kasten joked. "Have you not be reading the magazine predictions?... It really is tantalizingly close. I think you will see us move closer to our eventual goals over the course of this upcoming year, and 2011 we expect to be a really serious contending year."
After talking briefly about Stephen Strasburg, the conversation ended with Kasten being asked whether Strasburg and the youngsters are sparking increased fan and ticket interest.
"I think people are waiting for Strasburg to get here," Kasten said. "We're gonna see his first professional game this coming Tuesday; it's a big, big event. MASN, our local cable station, has changed its scheduling in order to televise that event, because there's so much interest back home, so we have that going on.
"We also are really hopeful for a full return for Chien-Ming Wang, who was a Cy Young-type pitcher until he got hurt, and that's a whole new group of fans that we haven't been able to tap into. I mean, hundreds of thousands in our area, and dozens of new media people, so we're opening up that market.
"So if some things break our way, it could be a very, very exciting season, and yes, that means ticket sales, too. But if we get the team right, when we do our job right -- which we haven't done yet -- when we turn the corner, we've seen what the fans in Washington do for the Redskins. We're now seeing what they do for the Capitals. And as soon as we get our job done, that's exactly what they're going to do for the Nationals."
(Many thanks to Reader Russell for the tip.)
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