Sports

Winter Classic now forced to share New Year's Day with college bowl games of real substance

  • Former Washington Capitals player Peter Bondra skates on the ice before a Washington Capitals alunmi/VIP game at Nationals Park in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, as part of the events for the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game  to be held on New Year's Day, between the Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Former Washington Capitals player Peter Bondra skates on the ice before a Washington Capitals alunmi/VIP game at Nationals Park in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, as part of the events for the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game to be held on New Year's Day, between the Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chicago Blackhawks teammates try to score on goalie Antti Raanta (31), of Finland, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, at the beginning of a team practice in preparation for the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game to be held on New Year's Day. The Blackhawks will face off against the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Chicago Blackhawks teammates try to score on goalie Antti Raanta (31), of Finland, at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, at the beginning of a team practice in preparation for the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game to be held on New Year's Day. The Blackhawks will face off against the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)  (The Associated Press)

  • Members of the Washington Capitals pose for a photo at Nationals Park in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, pose for a photo at Nationals Park in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, before NHL hockey practice. The Capitals face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Members of the Washington Capitals pose for a photo at Nationals Park in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, pose for a photo at Nationals Park in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, before NHL hockey practice. The Capitals face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)  (The Associated Press)

For the first time, the Winter Classic is sharing New Year's Day with college football games that have something to do with the national championship.

The NHL's annual showcase has been able to establish its place on the calendar in part because college football essentially abandoned what used to be its biggest day, populating it with run-of-the-mill bowl games and saving the big ones for later.

This year, they're trying to take it back, with the College Football Playoff semifinals highlighting the schedule.

Then again, there might be room for both. Now in its seventh year, the Classic has developed enough of a presence to withstand a bit of competition.

The Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday at Nationals Park.