The Chicago Blackhawks are scheduled to take on the Washington Capitals at noon Central on New Year’s Day, but the start time of the game could be pushed back about 90 minutes because of an unexpected obstacle: The sun.
According to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the game time could be in jeopardy because of the effect the sun has on the ice surface at the outdoor rink inside Nationals Park. Not only can the sun melt portions of the ice (tarps were put onto parts of the surface when the Capitals were skating with their families on Wednesday), but it can also cause a glare that can make playing hockey dangerous for the players involved.
“It would be more of a player-safety issue,” Daly said in remarks to the media. “The glare, if you’re having trouble picking up the puck, I think there’d be a concern.”
Temperature isn’t going to be an issue with the rink, with high temperatures in Washington slated to only reach the low 40’s, but the sun glare could cause the game to be delayed until approximately 1:30 p.m. or 1:45 p.m. Central on Thursday. At that time, the sun retreats behind the upper deck at the ballpark, so the game could commence shortly thereafter.
If the start time isn't delayed and the sun becomes an issue, there are several remedies that players can try. The old ballpark standard eyeblack will be out in full force, and according to reports, the NHL has decided to allow players to wear sunglasses as well. Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner wore a pair on the ice during the team's practice on Tuesday, and he liked them enough that he will wear them Thursday if necessary.
"No complaints," he said. "They were awesome. They did the trick."
The league will look to make a decision on the start time of the game as close to game time as possible, so don’t expect a decision until Thursday morning in all likelihood.