“We knew that unabated sunshine was a problem,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told the NBC broadcast. Bettman also said Saturday’s were the worst ice conditions at an NHL outdoor game so far.
“We’ve done over 30 outdoor games,” he said. “This has been the most difficult weather circumstance we’ve had, and it’s a beautiful day. But if you look up at the sun, the cloud cover is everywhere but where the sun is, and it did a number on the ice.”
The conditions were clearly rough during the game’s first 20 minutes, with players often appearing to stumble because of ruts in the ice. The Avalanche was up 1-0 at the time of the pause.
Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog told NBC that the Avalanche was ready to go back out if the league wanted to continue the game but agreed that resuming play at night was the “right decision.” Landeskog said that, during the delay, the team would go back to the hotel, get some food and regroup.
With another sunny forecast expected for Sunday’s scheduled game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, the NHL moved the start time back from 11 a.m. Pacific time to 4:30 p.m. “in the interest of player safety due to Sunday’s forecast of sunlight with no cloud cover and unseasonably warm temperatures.” Subsequently, the game Sunday between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern time in Washington, will now start at 2 p.m.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, no fans were present in Nevada on Saturday, nor will any be on site for Sunday’s game. The NHL is about a quarter of the way through its 56-game, pandemic-shortened season and has had numerous postponements amid coronavirus concerns.
Bettman told NBC that the league believes it can get the rest of its schedule in. “We’re going to soldier on and get this season played,” he said.