STATELINE, Nev. – The setting was spectacular but the ice conditions were far from it, leading to a more than eight-hour delay between the first and second period of the outdoor game between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche at Lake Tahoe.
The NHL decided to halt the game Saturday afternoon because bright sun and temperatures hovering around freezing led to poor ice conditions that had players and officials repeatedly falling because of holes on the ice.
The game resumed 8 hours, 7 minutes later at 9:02 p.m. PST with the Avalanche leading 1-0. Colorado won the game 3-2.
“We’ve done over 30 outdoor games,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told broadcaster NBC. "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 game was halted after the first period at 12:55 p.m. PST. Workers covered the ice soon after before removing the cover after the sun went down.
Bettman said some players wanted to keep playing while others didn't, but the final decision was made in consultation with the union because of safety.
“There was a reason why they postponed it,” Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez said. “Obviously they did the best they could but the sun was beating down on it too much and was melting the ice. There were some big chunks taken out. We obviously didn’t want anyone getting hurt. If big chunks are coming out of the ice all the way to the cement, that’s obviously dangerous playing conditions.”
Crews were working on the ice just before the opening faceoff and issues kept cropping up throughout the period.
"We’ve played in some rain, we’ve played in snow, but sunshine has always been our enemy,” Bettman said.
The ice issues took away from the spectacular setting for the game, which is being played on a makeshift rink on the 18th fairway of a golf course on the shore of Lake Tahoe, with snow-covered mountains in the background.
It snowed overnight and into the morning before the sun came out. While the pristine conditions made for perfect views, it proved detrimental to the ice.
“Whenever the sun was beating down on the ice it’s really hard to maintain,” Vegas forward Alex Tuch said. “The ice crew did an unbelievable job to try to maintain it during the day. More of an impossible task.”
The ice was in much better shape at night for the final two periods.
“The ice was pretty bad and slushy but we were ready to play," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "They didn’t want to play it seemed like, but we did. Luckily, we were able to get it done tonight. The ice was great.”
But the delay didn't alter Bettman's commitment to outdoor games, even in unconventional settings outside of a stadium venue like Lake Tahoe.
“This game was really taking the game out to its roots in terms of the surroundings," Bettman said. "Obviously, we tried to do something different in an unusual time, try and give our fans something special. The players were excited about it. ... We’re going to continue to do this, but we always knew and we’ll know going forward that when you play outside and ice is important, the weather conditions can affect whether or not we can play the game. We’ve been lucky to this point and I think we’re all disappointed but the teams have been great. ... And we move on. You can’t have success if you don’t risk failure.”
The NHL announced that Sunday's game between Boston and Philadelphia will be moved back by more than five hours to avoid the bright sunshine that is causing issues for the first game this weekend.
The game at Edgewood Tahoe Resort will now start at 4:30 p.m. PST. It had originally been scheduled for a noon local start and then was moved back to 11 a.m. earlier in the week because of the forecast.
The game also was moved from NBC to NBCSN, with the New Jersey Devils-Washington Capitals game previously scheduled for 7 p.m. EST now being changed to 2 p.m. and being broadcast on NBC.
Both teams were unable to practice on the specially built outdoor rink before Saturday's Vegas-Colorado game because of the ice conditions. They were forced to go to a local indoor rink instead.
“In this game, you have to learn how to adapt,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said.
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