Winter Classic contingency plans call for 'long window' to play game Saturday
Early weather forecasts are calling for unseasonably warm temperatures and rain Saturday, but the NHL plans to exhaust all options to play the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field this weekend.
An NHL official confirmed today that a "long window" exists to play the outdoor game Saturday between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
If the game cannot be played Saturday the league has reserved Heinz Field for Sunday and will attempt to play the game then, NHL vice president of player development/event communications Jamey Horan said in an email.
If the game cannot be played Saturday or Sunday it will be rescheduled for a date later in the season, and the game will be held at Consol Energy Center.
According to AccuWeather.com, the high temperature for Saturday will be 53 degrees. Normal high for Jan. 1 is 36 degrees, with a high of 34 degrees for the date this past year. The forecast calls for a high of 41 degrees Sunday.
Warm temperatures are not a primary concern because of an elaborate refrigeration system that cools the outdoor ice rink, NHL operations facilities manager Dan Craig told the Tribune-Review last week.
The more distressing forecast for Saturday is three hours of rain, with a 20 percent probability of thunderstorms. Accuweather.com is calling for 12 hours of rain Sunday, though no thunderstorms.
Craig said rain, swirling winds and the reflection of bright sunshine were potential problems for the outdoor rink that is expected to be completed by today.
A practice day is scheduled for Friday, but Craig said Thursday is an "important" date in the rink preparation process.
"December 30th is when we dial in," he said. "We'll be at the level of ice we want at that point, and we'll start to make adjustments accordingly."