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.
Before every Winter Classic, there’s a lot of excitement but one specific problem that hangs over the heads of many people organizing the event. (Even if that problem has been more of a concern than a reality so far).
The very thing that makes it so special – a game played in the elements, just like hockey’s roots – also makes it a somewhat risky endeavor. That’s because the wrong weather can sabotage the event, something that one Pittsburgh-based beat writer worries might happen on Saturday.
When word came out that the game would take place in Pittsburgh, most people pictured a bitterly cold day perfect for outdoor hockey (think of that snow globe effect we saw in the first WC in Buffalo). Yet Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders if early forecasts are a harbinger of doom for the NHL’s signature event.
The weather forecast for Saturday, the day of the Winter Classic, is for temperatures in the 40s and 40 percent chance of showers. The high for the day is predicted to be 49, unseasonably warm.
Could Mother Nature quash this feel-good hockey celebration scheduled for Heinz Field between the Penguins and Washington Capitals?
It’s the signature event of the NHL regular season and in just its fourth year has become a monster success. But always with a concern for the weather.
In the event of a warm-out or rain-out, the game would be played Jan. 2. The forecast for that day is a high of 42 with a 40 percent chance of rain.
The technology is available to keep the ice firm with temperatures in the 40s. There’s no technology that can keep ice firm under a steady rain.
Rainy weather that might be unseasonably warm for Pittsburgh? These are the kind of climate issues that keep planners from staging an outdoor game in Jerry World in Dallas or some other non-traditional market, not a winter wonderland in the Northeast.
Now, it’s a little early to go into Chicken Little mode about the weather, especially considering the fact that the game is so many days away and forecasts can be fickle at best. Still, the NHL must acknowledge the fact that things could go wrong and developing a contingency plan is always important. We’ll keep you updated as the big game approaches.