Delayed Winter Classic start would mean Rose Bowl competition

Workers ready the outdoor ice rink and prepare Nationals Park for the 2015 Bridgestone Winter Classic NHL hockey game between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON, DC – By 2:30 p.m. on a winter’s day at Nationals Park, the sun’s light is obstructed by the baseball stadium’s upper deck. Shadows cover most of the hockey rink built in the middle of the field.

They’re ideal conditions for an outdoor NHL game.

Trouble is that the 2015 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., when glare from the ice could be an issue for the players.

“You don’t know what the sun is in the winter time until it’s the winter time and you’re here,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

So the NHL will poll the coaches and players after their New Year’s Eve practices to get a sense of the glare. They’ll mull things over, and then speak to the coaches again on New Year’s Day. They’ll get feedback from the NHL Players' Association and then make the call whether to delay the Winter Classic.

“Probably not until tomorrow, right before the game,” said Daly. “Any delay, and hopefully there won’t be one, will be a minimal delay.”

It’s not unprecedented, as the 2012 Winter Classic was delayed by two hours in Philadelphia due to the sun glare and the Yankee Stadium game last season between the Devils and Rangers last season was delayed by 98 minutes.

But this is the first year the Classic bumps up against the College Football Playoff, with the Rose Bowl scheduled for 4:30 p.m. between Oregon and Florida State. A 1 p.m. start likely clears that game; a 2:30 p.m. start on NBC means the Winter Classic ends during the Rose Bowl on ESPN, which could affect ratings.

Daly said that the NHL found a window on New Year’s Day for the Winter Classic, and in theory the League wants the game played in that window.

But the glare is a player safety issue, with players being unable to pick up the puck, and the NHL is ready to bump the game a little later to avoid it.

“Any delay is going to be a very minimal delay. We know enough that the rink is in shade by 2 or 2:30,” said Daly.