WASHINGTON – The NHL is still hoping to start Thursday’s Winter Classic on time, but a decision on whether to delay it from the scheduled 1 p.m. ET start because of sun won’t be made until game day.
The league won’t decide “until as close to the game as we can get it because we want to play it on time if we can play it on time,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday at Nationals Park.
The weather report calls for 42 degrees and sunny conditions.
The sun can be a player safety issue because glare can make it difficult to pick up the puck. At noon Wednesday as the Washington Capitals practiced, the right side of the ice was in shadow while center ice and the other offensive zone was bathed in bright sun.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green said it took him about five to 10 minutes for his eyes to adjust and that the eye black didn’t work.
“Hopefully at the time, there will be shadows on the ice as opposed to glare,” he said. “We’ll see.”
The 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia was delayed by two hours because of sun, and the first Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium earlier this year was delayed by more than an hour.
The Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL Players’ Association and the league will have a say in whether the game starts on time.
An issue Thursday is that the College Football Playoff games start at 5:30, but the whole rink could be more shaded by 2:30, meaning there wouldn’t be an overlap even if there is a delay.
“Nobody wants to delay the game, so if there’s any way we can avoid delaying the game, we’re going to avoid delaying the game,” Daly said.
Green said a delay wouldn’t affect the players too much because the Nationals clubhouse is big and well-stocked.
“I think it be harder on the fans, to be honest, if it’s cold out there, but for us, we’ll be fine,” he said.
Green added that the ice surface was “really good,” better than in his last Winter Classic in Pittsburgh in 2011.
“Last time, it was really soft and it was actually raining out and quite warm,” he said. “There were sort of soft spots and puddles. Today was perfect.”
In other league news:
-Daly said he hopes there could be announcement soon on Andrew Barroway’s proposed purchase of 51% of the Arizona Coyotes.
-The league continues to work toward setting up a World Cup tournament, but isn’t ready yet to announce a date. Daly said he and NHL chief operating officer John Collins talked about the World Cup at breakfast.
“We’re going to be pushing toward a date where we can some sort of announcement,” Daly said. “It’s just a lot of people who have interest in it and stakeholders who have interest and we want to make sure everybody’s on the same page, and that’s going to take some time.”
PHOTOS: Winter Classic rink preparations
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