WASHINGTON — The talk on New Year’s Eve, and the eve of the Winter Classic, was that the NHL's outdoor game was likely to be delayed from its 1 p.m. start time due to glare off the ice from the sun.
The reason, according to the NHL? Player safety issues, as it was difficult to pick up the puck with their eyes due to that glare.
It was somewhat surprising, then, when the game wasn’t delayed and the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks started play with three quarters of the rink bathed in sunlight.
Was it safe?
“It was pretty tough, to be honest with you. Not the best for us to play in that kind of weather,” said Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, whose team lost 3-2 to the Capitals on a goal scored with 13 seconds remaining.
“It was tough to see the puck. It was kind of dangerous.”
The players helped make the call on whether or not to start the game on time. A few of his team leaders and their counterparts on the Capitals gave the go-ahead after the pregame skate to start on time, after a short discussion.
“Both representatives from each side were determining if we were going to play on time or delay it. And we determined it was safe enough. The sun was an issue. But I’m glad we started on time,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp.
Did Hjalmarsson feel like his dissenting option was in the minority?
“I don’t know. It’s just what I think,” he said.
The problem persists for the first period, but by the second period the rink was covered in shadow. That, plus temperatures in the mid-40s, made for some of the best conditions the NHL has had for a Winter Classic.
“The second and third was much better. Perfect weather,” said Hjalmarsson.
“No one got hurt at least.”