Everything to know about Lake Tahoe as the NHL heads outdoors

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Hockey returns to its roots on Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 with the NHL taking things outside on the biggest stage yet: Lake Tahoe.

The historic weekend kicked off at the storied site on Saturday with the Colorado Avalanche taking on the Vegas Golden Knights. After a first period of abundant sunshine and melting ice, the leagued postponed play until midnight ET. In the final 40 minutes, Nathan MacKinnon added a goal and second assist to lead the Avs past Vegas, 3-2.

Then, at 7 p.m. on Sunday on NBCSN (livestream), the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers clash in a rematch of the 2010 Winter Classic. Prior to the game, NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover at 5 p.m. ET.

“It’s a pretty picturesque event. If we were allowed to, we would have stayed out here all day,” Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith told reporters after skating outdoors.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Where is Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is part of the Sierra Nevada. It is the largest alpine lake in North America, spreading nearly 22 miles across and lying at 6,225 feet. It spreads across the California/Nevada border and is considered California’s largest lake.

The average temperature in Stateline, Nevada for the month of February fluctuates between 21.7 degrees and 36.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can Lake Tahoe freeze over?

Colorado forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was mistaken in an early press conference that the teams were skating on Lake Tahoe until teammate Andre Burakovsky broke the news that they weren’t playing on the actual lake.

The thought of NHL hockey on top of one of North America’s most famous lakes brings back wholesome pond hockey memories and would truly be a sight to behold. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, because Lake Tahoe doesn’t freeze over.

The science behind it? Lake Tahoe contains 37 trillion gallons of water and has a maximum depth of 1,645 feet, making it the second-deepest lake in the U.S. In fact, it is so deep that the Empire State Building could be submerged underwater.

As the temperature drops, the surface of the lake becomes cooler and mixes with the water below. Because of the amount of water and stored heat, Lake Tahoe doesn’t hit freezing point. Which can be a bit of a problem if you’re looking to lace ’em up. Luckily, the NHL found a way to combine the famous scenery and the game we love.

“I just told them, ‘Did you know you couldn’t skate on that lake?’ And they were like, “Oh yeah. No, I didn’t even think about it,'” Bellemare told the media. “Everybody made fun of me. Sometimes you have to give a little bit of yourself for people to have a positive day. And I guess that was my gift this time.”

[MORE: Players ready for ‘different vibe’ at NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe]

Where are the NHL games at Lake Tahoe being played?

Both games take place at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada, which lies on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The rink itself is on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, and the closest corner of the rink sits about 50 paces from the lake.

This marks first time in NHL history that an outdoor game takes place on top of a golf course and the first time teams play outdoors without fans. The most common venue for outdoor games so far have been football stadiums (19 games), followed by baseball stadiums (10 games) and soccer stadiums (one game).

Mark Stone called it “probably the best outdoor rink you’ll ever see.”

“It really brings you back to the old-school outdoor rinks… this is obviously something we’ve circled on our calendars since the announcement,” Stone said. “We’re pretty excited to be here.”