One would think that with the many years the NHL has held the Winter Classic outdoors, they would learn. But today in Lake Tahoe, we saw that they have not.
I majored in English, not science, but I remember clearly learning as a kid that the Sun radiates heat. This is not a new fact. Another old fact is that ice hockey is played on, you guessed it, ice. The key component of ice is cold. Now, going back to that first fact, the Sun does not make ice. And, stay with me, the peak time for the Sun is midday. Our ancestors a thousand, two thousand years ago knew this.
So, with all of these facts, I’m a little confused as to why the NHL decided that an ice hockey game played outside in the sun would be ideal in the middle of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand how cool it looks with the Lake and the mountains in the background. I understand how nostalgic it is for so many players to play on the ice under the open sky. I get the draw of having an outdoor NHL game in the daylight. What I don’t understand is how the NHL hasn’t come up with a good way to combat the Sun melting the ice the game is supposed to take place on.
Since 2008, the NHL has postponed 1 Winter Classic due to the Sun and warm temperatures, and another due to rain (AKA the warmer version of snow). They also have had to make alterations as to how to format overtimes and shootouts due to potentially unfair sun glares. These seem like superfluous changes when the alternative is to just have the game at night when temperatures drop and the Sun becomes a nonissue. The first postponed Winter Classic in 2011 was pushed from 1pm to 8pm because of a chance of rain. A night game wasn’t a problem in 2011. The next year, the Classic was pushed back from 1pm to 3pm because of the Sun heating the ice surface. Again, not an issue.
The NHL may not be the most popular sport on television. But, the NBA is the only other professional sport playing in the primetime slot. The league cannot claim that a later start time would hurt their viewership. In fact, views may go up considering more people are likely to be home on a Saturday night versus during the day, especially during a pandemic. Colorado-Vegas is a good “watch if it’s on” game for the East. By having to push the second and third periods of the game to Midnight ET, the NHL essentially lost East Coast viewers.
I’m just baffled. I love the backdrop and the concept, but this is not the first time this issue has come up. One would think with all the money they spent to make and prep this rink, the NHL would protect their asset by ensuring that the ice would be usable for the duration of the game. Only being able to play one period on this rink is an embarrassment. The NHL has had 10 years to figure out a way to prolong the surface of the ice if they want to play during the day, and they have not. One would hope going forward, they would finally learn something and fix the issue.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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