47 degrees and rain – the kind of weather that is the NHL’s worst fear when scheduling an outdoor game. But that is what is in the forecast for this weekend as of last night, which is really starting to cause a stir through the league for the upcoming Winter Classic.
Backup plans are starting to surface if weather doesn’t allow the Winter Classic to begin on time at 1 PM ET on Saturday. According to Kevin Allen, if it's pouring that afternoon, television networks say the game’s start time could be delayed until as late as 8 PM ET.
The NHL also has Heinz Field reserved for Sunday, Jan. 2, so pushing it back a day is an option. Neither the Penguins nor Capitals have a game until Jan. 4. If the whole weekend is a wash, the game will be pushed to an unidentified date later in the year and will be played in CONSOL Energy Center.
A decision isn’t expected to be made until Dec. 31 at the earliest.
As for the ice conditions, via a series of tweets from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, rain is not the main issue here. According to Rosen, ice expert Dan Craig feels any rain that hits the ice will freeze immediately. Player visibility is a bigger concern if it does rain.
(Of course, direct sunlight to the ice would be the worst thing to happen; but if this current weather forecast holds true, do we really think it’ll be sunny on Saturday?)
I guess the NHL was foreshadowing when they made their Winter Classic promo? Maybe it will rain, then turn to snow during the game?
All we can really do is sit and wait for this weekend to draw closer and see where everything stands. There’s no telling what Mother Nature has in her plans. I know I’m hoping for the rain to stay away and everything goes as smoothly as possible; my flight back home is the night of the game!
I’ll be reporting live from Heinz Field starting on Thursday, so stay close to the RLD!
Daily Pittsburgh Forecast Update for Jan. 1:
Photos credit: A.J. in Nashville / NHL.com Graph: The Weather Channel
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.