NHL Sticking to Scheduled Start Time for Outdoor Winter Classic

The National Hockey League is prepared for the Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic to start on schedule even with rain and warm weather forecast in the host city of Pittsburgh.

“We’re planning to go at 1 o’clock and we are fully expecting to get the game in on Saturday,” NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said today in a conference call with reporters.

If the weather prevents the game from starting on time, it can be moved to later in the day or to Jan. 2, Collins said. The game between the Pittsburgh Penguins, with league scoring leader Sidney Crosby, and the Washington Capitals, with two-time Most Valuable Player Alex Ovechkin, is the fourth annual New Year’s Day outdoor contest for the NHL. The previous three were the most-watched regular-season NHL games since 1996, according to the Sports Business Journal.

“We’ll gather as much information as we possibly can to make sure that we are taking into account the competitive integrity of the game, the safety of the players and obviously the convenience of the fans,” Collins said.

The weather in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day is expected to reach a high temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) with a 70 percent chance of rain showers in the afternoon, according to WXPI television.

The Penguins (25-11-3) have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals (22-12-5) are tied for second.

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