WASHINGTON (AP) — A Winter Classic with sunglasses? With a halftime in the first period? Or delayed for a couple of hours on account of, well, gorgeous weather?
Those were among the options discussed Wednesday as the NHL faced the prospect of playing its showcase outdoor game on a bright, sunny New Year’s Day in the nation’s capital.
“Nobody wants to delay the game,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “So if there’s any way we can avoid delaying the game, we’re going to avoid delaying the game.”
Faceoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Nationals Park for the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. The forecast calls for lots of sun and few clouds — and therefore lots of glare on the sheet of ice — with a high temperature in the low 40s.
“It would be more of a player-safety issue,” Daly said. “The glare, if you’re having trouble picking up the puck, I think there’d be a concern.”
The Capitals found that out during Wednesday’s midday practice, when the ice was soft at one corner of the rink and the puck was sometimes hard to see. They tried various forms of eye black, a seemingly appropriate attire for an event taking place on a baseball field.
“It was pretty bad,” defenseman Mike Green said. “Once you got on the ice and were skating around, it took about five or 10 minutes for guys to adjust, and it wasn’t easy to see pucks on the ice. It should be tough on the goalies if that’s the case tomorrow.”
Defenseman Karl Alzner stood out by wearing a pair of ordinary sunglass. He said he’ll wear them again Thursday if allowed — an NHL spokesman said there was no rule against it — because they made a world of difference.
“That actually might be the way to go,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “If it comes to it, you might see a lot more guys wearing them.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said there had been discussions about switching ends at the 10-minute mark of the first period, when the sun would be at its worst, so that the teams would have to endure equal amounts of glare. Such an arrangement would require an OK from the Blackhawks and the league.
The more straightforward solution, although the one least preferred, would be to delay the start until the sun has moved behind the baseball stands enough for shadows to cover the entire rink, which will happen around 2:30 p.m.
Daly said a decision won’t be made until “as close to the game” as possible on Thursday.
“Any delay — and hopefully there won’t be one — would be a minimal delay,” Daly said.
The NHL has more incentive than usual this year to get the game going on time. For the first time, the Classic is sharing New Year’s Day with college football games that have national title implications. A long delay could put at least part of the Classic head-to-head against the College Football Playoff semifinal between Oregon and Florida State.
The Classic has had two weather delays since the inaugural game in 2008. The 2011 game in Pittsburgh, also involving the Capitals, was postponed until prime time because of rain, and the 2012 Classic in Philadelphia was delayed two hours because of sun.
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