Dec 26, 2010, 5:07 PM EDT
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.
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