The finish to the NHL Outdoors blockbuster played in front of the breath-taking Lake Tahoe back-drop had to be postponed on Sunday (AEDT) following a dramatic meltdown.
The match between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche was postponed nearly eight hours due to player safety issues.
The contest was halted after the first period with the Avalanche ahead 1-0 after sunshine melted the ice to cause poor skating conditions and too great a risk of injury.
“We concluded after consulting with our icemakers and both teams that we didn’t think it was safe and appropriate to continue playing this game at this time,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
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The second period start was pushed back nearly eight hours to 9pm local time and didn’t get underway until midnight on the east coast of the United States.
A special rink was assembled on the 18th hole of a lakeside golf course to create the unique atmosphere with mountains in the background and boaters watching on the water a short walk away but no spectators on site due to COVID-19.
Images of the scene left the sporting world in awe.
The match-up was the first of a double-header that concludes on Monday (AEDT) with the Boston Bruins facing the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’ve done more than 30 outdoor games. This has been the most difficult weather circumstance we’ve had and it’s a beautiful day,” said Bettman.
“We knew unabated sunshine was a problem.” Bettman said players were divided over returning to play as planned or waiting. “You’ve got to do the prudent thing,” he said. “We’re all disappointed. You can’t have success if you don’t risk failure.” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, a Swedish left winger, said Colorado was ready to keep going but it was probably wiser to wait and resume under the lights.
“That first period was the way it was but some places were slushy,” he said. “We were ready to go out. We wanted to go out, but it’s probably for the best.
“We’ll take it in stride and try to pick up where we left off. It’ll be one to remember for sure.” Colorado played in “throwback” uniforms featuring the logo of the Quebec Nordiques, the identity of the club before it moved from Canada to Denver in 1995.
Two outdoor games originally planned for 2021 were scrapped because of the pandemic. St. Louis was to have played Minnesota at Target Field baseball park in Minneapolis on January 1 and the Carolina Hurricanes were to have hosted a game at a college football stadium on Sunday.