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Sean Leahy

Weather moves Caps/Pens Winter Classic to primetime Saturday

Sean Leahy
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PITTSBURGH -- The amateur meteorology can finally stop now as the NHL officially announced that the Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals will be pushed back to 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

From the NHL:

"The decision was based on the latest meteorological reports, which have advised an approaching front of potentially steady rain expected to fall through the afternoon and taper off by early evening, and after consultation with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals, national broadcast partners (NBC, CBC, RDS), the Pittsburgh Steelers, the National Hockey League Players' Association, and local officials.

We have been further advised that cooler and drier air conditions are expected in the evening with the passing of the front. The NHL feels that it was important to make this announcement at this time so as to minimize the inconvenience to all parties associated with the event, especially its fans."

Concerns regarding the inclement weather entering the area grew once many of the hockey media began arriving in Pittsburgh earlier this week.

The delay will now put the Classic up against two college bowl games (and five in the NHL) as opposed to the four that are scheduled during the original 1 p.m. ET start time. Wisconsin/TCU in the Rose Bowl (5 p.m. ET) and Connecticut/Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET) aren't exactly games with markets involved that the NBC should be worried about bringing ratings down.

A Saturday night primetime start on NBC could mean many more eyes watching than would have been at 1 p.m. ET. Extra coverage will be devoted on networks talking about the delay tonight, thereby giving NBC and the NHL more hours to promote it. (Who wants to see pouring rain turn into snowflakes during a Sid and Ovie staredown a few more times?)

An 8 p.m. start will also give the fans in attendance more time to continue their partying from New Year's Eve, which should lead to some fantastic NBC crowd shots tomorrow night at Heinz Field.

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