STATELINE, Nev. — The NHL had postponed the starts of games and delayed play briefly during games because of weather on multiple occasions while playing outdoors 30 times from 2003-20.
But it had not delayed play for a significant amount of time during a game until it suspended the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday between the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights after the first period because of the sun causing poor ice conditions.
The Avalanche lead 1-0. Play is scheduled to resume at midnight ET.
“I guess, it was just, our number came up,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
Daly explained to NHL.com why the NHL decided to start the game on time at 3 p.m. ET, suspend it after one period and resume it at midnight, and to delay the start of the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, originally scheduled for 3 p.m. ET and then rescheduled for 2 p.m. ET because of sun in the forecast, to 7:30 p.m. ET.
NHL officials went through a detailed planning process Friday night and Saturday morning. The most current weather forecasts called for conditions to be partly cloudy with temperatures in the 30s through midafternoon Saturday, but sunny with temperatures in the 40s Sunday.
Daly said NHL officials decided Saturday morning to start the Saturday game on time and push back the Sunday game.
NHL senior manager of facilities operations Derek King is in charge of the rink, built on the 18th fairway of the golf course at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. His adviser is NHL vice president of facilities operations Dan Craig.
“They were confident that if we had partly cloudy weather and the temperatures remained in the 30s, we shouldn’t have a problem getting through the game,” Daly said. “So today was, based on the information we have, make the best decision we can and move forward. Tomorrow was going to be problematic, and that’s why we made a decision this morning that we were going to postpone tomorrow’s game until the sun goes down. We won’t have a sun issue. That was the decision and thought process.”
Daly said it was sunnier during warmup Saturday than NHL officials would have liked, but there was cloud cover during the latter part of warmup and during the ice maintenance between warmup and the opening face-off.
“Unfortunately, after that, we didn’t get any more cloud cover,” Daly said. “The ice became problematic early on, and that was solely because of the strength of the sun. Obviously, you saw we were having issues in the first period with players not being able to maintain their footing, particularly around the logos (which absorb sunlight because of their darker color). We made the determination that it wasn’t safe to continue on.”
NHL officials consulted with King, the teams, the NHL Players’ Association and the TV networks before suspending the game and setting the restart time.
Why midnight ET, or 9 p.m. local time? King wanted to protect the ice with insulated blankets until the sun went down, and then the ice crew would need time to repair the surface.
“Really, it was a question as to whether we would try to go later tonight or very, very early tomorrow morning,” Daly said. “The throwing around was a 7 a.m. puck drop tomorrow morning for periods two and three. Ultimately Derek kind of steered the decision, because his feeling was he could get the ice in shape if he had enough time today to drop the puck tonight, and that by doing that and finishing that game tonight, we wouldn’t jeopardize what he needs to do to get prepared for tomorrow’s 4:30 [p.m. PT] game. So that’s how we arrived at the times and dates we arrived at.”
Daly said the NHL intends to play the final two periods and any overtime that might be required Saturday.
“Every single outdoor game we have and we stage, there’s an element of uncertainty as to whether we’re going to be able to pull it off, successfully complete it, whether that means start on time, finish on time, whether we’ll be able to play the game at all,” Daly said. “We’ve been fortunate that to this point we’ve never lost a game.”