Where's the buzz for Winter Classic?

Sunny, crisp and cool, but not too sunny, and definitely not raining, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis reported of the weather in the nation's capital.

Ah, it must be Winter Classic time, as the hockey world now collides with meteorology.

But we might be finally seeing the first signs of thaw when it comes to buzz for the 2015 Winter Classic, which will be held at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Jan 1.

Buzz. Not much more subjective a term than that.

Fair or not, the perception around the hockey world is that there is a distinct lack of buzz surrounding the NHL's marquee regular-season game.

On social media, much of the early discussion surrounding the tilt between the host Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks has been around the seemingly slow build of enthusiasm for an event that has been a major draw for NHL sponsors, hundreds of thousands of fans at the event and a huge television audience.

Anecdotal? For sure.

Meaningful? Hard to tell, although, to be fair, the NHL is just now swinging into major event mode.

The NHL's distinctive ice-making truck rolled into D.C. on Monday. Images of it were widely circulated, reminding folks that, yes, the Winter Classic is indeed alive and well.

Part of the issue facing the league is that the event has become so successful and created such distinct memories that the challenge to raise the bar ever higher every year becomes daunting.

Last year, the NHL went to Michigan Stadium for a frosty Winter Classic that included longtime foes the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The game had been delayed by the previous season's lockout, so perhaps the anticipation was even greater.

But the event didn't disappoint on any level, with the Leafs besting the Wings in a snowy shootout after selling 105,491 tickets to the game.

The event was greatly enhanced by a second outdoor rink at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit where major junior and college hockey games were played and Red Wing and Maple Leaf alumni gathered for two emotional games leading up to the Winter Classic.

Previous alumni events in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were likewise wildly popular with fans, even though in Philadelphia fans were forced to purchase tickets to the alumni game as part of a bundle that included tickets to the main event between the Rangers and Flyers.

Still, who can forget Eric Lindros and Bob Clarke on the ice together at Citizens Bank Park on 2012? Or legend Bernie Parent skating onto the ice to the delight of a sold-out building?

This year's event in Washington will not have a formal alumni component, although Caps alumni are expected to be highly visible at other events, including a pre-Winter Classic media/VIP session on Dec. 30.

Part of the reason for this was that the Washington Nationals were not agreeable to opening up their facility to events beyond the Winter Classic game itself because they want to minimize the repairs needed to get the field back in baseball shape.

And Leonsis said there was a conscious decision on the part of the Capitals to not ask too much of their fan base.

Capitals fans responded in a big way to ticket sales for the Winter Classic game; Leonsis said they will have sold more tickets to a Winter Classic than any other home team save one, and they didn't feel it appropriate to tack on another event.

"We were really working our fan base a lot," Leonsis said.

"I just felt it was best to have all the focus and attention on the Winter Classic."

Indeed, Caps fans have been waiting for years for this event to come to town, and some 1,500 season ticket holders showed up earlier this year for a press event announcing the location of the 2015 Winter Classic.

There will be a free fan event outside Nationals Park before the game, similar to other popular events at previous Winter Classics that will include live music and interactive opportunities for fans.

The team, along with the NHL and Winter Classic sponsors, recently unveiled a refurbished rink in the city's southeast side that will be a part of the Winter Classic legacy.

"That was a big deal for us," Leonsis said.

The Capitals and the league are also focusing on the special connection in Washington to U.S. military personnel, which will serve as a central theme around and during the game.

Leonsis recalled traveling to Pittsburgh in 2011 for a much-anticipated event featuring two of the game's most defining players in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

While the matchup of Ovechkin and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews is likewise compelling, the lack of history between the two teams might also be contributing to the lack of buzz with the game little more than two weeks away.

There's also Nationals Park, which has hosted almost no iconic events, baseball or otherwise.

There is also the change to the popular "Road To The NHL Winter Classic" reality series this year. An unknown quantity when HBO began producing it ahead of the 2011 game, it became must-see television for hockey fans and casual fans and was a powerful lead-in to the event. This season, the four-part series has moved to premium cable entity Epix. (Epix is also doing a four-part lead-in to February's outdoor game between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings at Levi's Stadium.)

The first episode aired Tuesday evening, and, given Epix's lower profile/penetration in the media market compared to HBO's, the league and the network are making the episodes more readily available online with Epix offering free trials so fans can watch without necessarily having to subscribe to their premium cable package.

At its best, the series is a vital catalyst to revving up interest in the Winter Classic. If it's not at its best -- as was the case a year ago -- it's merely dead air with little appeal to fans of any ilk.

This is the second time Leonsis has lived with cameras around his team and, while he sees the big picture value of the behind-the-scenes look, he is not a fan of it.

At a recent game in Washington, an Epix crew spent two periods in Leonsis' private box while he watched the game with a friend and business partner.

"All I could think of was no wonder the Kardashian family is crazy," being followed around by cameras month after month, Leonsis said.

"But fans love it and it's all a part of what the Winter Classic is all about, which is a celebration of hockey and a celebration of the players."