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

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.