The NHL really, desperately wants the Winter Classic to be played as scheduled for a variety of reasons.
But Mother Nature might have other ideas.
Weather, or in particular a spell of “severe cold” in Minnesota, is threatening the viability of the outdoor showcase between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild at Target Field, though it is expected that the New Year’s Day event will go ahead as planned.
Should it, the 2022 Winter Classic is expected to become the coldest outdoor event on record in league history with a low of minus-15 degrees Fahrenheit anticipated for Saturday.
For those north of the border, that equates to minus-26 degrees Celsius.
While hopeful, the cold snap certainly has the attention of league officials.
“As with any outdoor game, weather is a factor,” the NHL’s Steve Mayer told Nick Cotsonika. “We clearly recognize that when we go to any venue. And as with any game, we’re monitoring the weather, and we’ll make decisions that are in the interest of our players and our fans, period.
“We’re getting expert opinions, but the weather is always changing too. It keeps moving. We’re not going to make an educated guess. We’re going to make a decision based on facts.
“As of right now, we are confident the game will go on as planned.”
The coldest outdoor game on record is the 2003 Heritage Classic between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens where temperatures dipped to zero, or minus-17 degrees C.
Tickets to the Winter Classic, which is one of the league’s key revenue drivers as one of few special and unique events, are sold out. There are 38,000 fans expected on Saturday, which will run nationally on TNT for the first time in its history.
A variety of factors have threatened, postponed and impacted outdoor games in the NHL’s history of putting on events outside its 32 rinks. Most recently, heat and sunlight forced a lengthy delay at Lake Tahoe last season as the ice began to melt in a game between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.
Rain, snow, wind, and heat are each factors that have each complicated matters for the ice crews at previous events.
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