The NHL will finish its Lake Tahoe outdoor game between the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights at 9 p.m. local time (midnight ET), after the game was paused due to deteriorating ice conditions following the first period.
Puck drop for the game was at 12:12 p.m. PST, under intense sunshine that was melting snow around the rink and causing problems with the ice.
The Avalanche lead the Golden Knights 1-0 after the first period on a goal by defenseman Samuel Girard. The teams left the ice for their dressing rooms and remained there until NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the game would be completed later Saturday evening.
“We knew that unabated sunshine was a problem,” said Bettman on NBC, which is shifting the competition of the game to NBCSN. “After consulting with our ice makers and both teams, we didn’t think it was safe or appropriate to continue this game at this time. Some of the players wanted to continue playing. Others were more concerned. I felt the most prudent thing to do was to discontinue the game now.”
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said his team was ready to go back out but was pulled back by league officials. “It’s probably a good decision to move it tonight,” he said.
The rink was constructed next to the shores of Lake Tahoe on the 18th hole of a golf course at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. The NHL had some temporary lights on cranes around the rink, and Bettman was confident the league had enough lightning for the nighttime game.
The NHL decided Saturday morning to move Sunday’s outdoor game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins from an 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET start time to a 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET start due to what’s expected to be another very sunny day in South Lake Tahoe.
The NHL had originally moved the game one hourly earlier due to sun concerns during the week.
This created a scheduling domino effect for the NHL. The New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals game was moved from 7 p.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET to fill the scheduling gap created by the rescheduling of the outdoor game. The Bruins vs. Flyers game was shifted to NBCSN.
“This has been the most difficult weather circumstance we’ve had — and it’s a beautiful day,” Bettman said. “The cloud cover is everywhere but where the sun is.”
The first sign of trouble came when the Flyers and Bruins had their outdoor practices on Saturday morning moved indoors at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. According to Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, the move was made to preserve the ice quality for Saturday’s game, as after two practices on Friday it was in rough shape.
With the sun beaming down on the rink, both players and officials appeared to stumble over ruts in the ice during the first period. The snowfall that covered the golf course where the rink was constructed had melted considerably since the morning, when South Lake Tahoe had 2-5 inches of fresh snow fall overnight.
The NHL announced contingency plans before the game if there were “unplayable weather conditions.” Among them: That the game would be considered “official” once two periods had been played, and the team leading at the time play is stopped will be declared the winner.
If the game is tied when game play is halted after two periods, each team would be awarded one point in the standings and the winner would be determined via a shootout. That shootout would take place immediately after play was stopped at the Lake Tahoe rink; or, if conditions wouldn’t permit that, at Ball Arena in Denver on Feb. 22, prior to the regularly scheduled game between the Golden Knights and Avalanche.