With the 2011 Winter Classic being delayed until 8:00 pm on New Year’s Day thanks to bad weather during the afternoon, the questions now turn to what happens if the weather turns bad during the game itself. The NHL is prepared with solutions for how to ensure that a game that’s started gets a proper outcome. Whether or not fans find those outcomes to be proper will be up for debate.
According to the NHL, once a game has begun it may be subjected to one or more temporary stoppages due to unplayable weather conditions. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has the final say as to whether or not the game is held up. Commissioner Bettman can also reconfigure the period and game format as needed. Teams changing ends at the 10:00 minute mark of the third period to make things fairer for both teams should the conditions dictate isn’t unfounded. Doing this allows for both teams to see the same amount of time overall on each end of the ice.
Where things get interesting is if the game is started and then stopped permanently because of the weather. If two periods have been played, the game is technically official. If one team is ahead, they’ll earn the win and get two points. If the game is tied, however, each team will get a point and then conduct a shootout to decide the winner. There won’t be an overtime period in this situation.
If the weather is so bad that even a shootout is considered too dangerous to do, then they’ll conduct the shootout on Feb. 6 prior to the start of the Pens-Caps game at Verizon Center in Washington. I can’t imagine this would cause too much of an uproar for Penguins fans to lose the home ice advantage.
Of course, if the game is started and permanently stopped before the second period is over, the game will be “postponed” and, if at all possible, be played on January 2nd in its entirety. Fantasy hockey teams could get ruined pretty hard if it turns into a goal fest early on only to have it postponed. It’s a special set of circumstances, but if you’re thinking the NHL isn’t prepared for this – think again.