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Golden Knights outdoor game suspended because of ice conditions

Updated February 20, 2021 - 7:48 pm

STATELINE — Someone took a paintbrush to sky over Lake Tahoe on Saturday afternoon, reaching up to give it a rich coat of blue.

Boaters and kayakers dotted the shoreline, with the famously clear water framed by snow-covered mountains in the distance and nearby pine trees.

A more picturesque scene could not have been created for NHL Outdoors.

“It was such a beautiful day,” Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “In retrospect, probably too beautiful a day.”

The bright sun that was responsible for the stunning visual also beat down on the outdoor rink at Edgewood Tahoe Resort and ruined the ice surface.

As a result, the game between the Knights and Colorado Avalanche was suspended after the first period in the interest of player safety. The teams resumed playing at 9 p.m. Pacific time and concluded late Saturday.

“Sunshine has always been our enemy,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We’ve done over 30 outdoor games. 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 Avalanche led 1-0 after the first period on a goal by defenseman Samuel Girard before there were numerous issues with the rink that was built on the 18th fairway of the golf course.

Snow fell earlier in the day, but by the opening faceoff at noon, the clouds cleared and the sun was out. Crews worked on the ice for extended periods during several of the breaks.

The area near the center ice logo endured most of the damage, causing players and officials to trip and fall on a handful of occasions throughout the first period.

“Some spots of the ice, it was a little slushy,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “But we were ready to go out whenever they called us back, and we kind of wanted to go back out, but it’s probably a good decision that we moved it to tonight.”

During the intermission, tarps were placed over the ice to reflect the sun, and there was more than an hour delay.

League officials met with their ice makers and representatives from both teams to discuss their options. One alternative to restarting Saturday night was to resume at 7 a.m. Sunday, according to McCrimmon.

The NHL also pushed back the start time of Sunday’s outdoor game between Boston and Philadelphia to 4:30 p.m. because the forecast called for sunlight with no cloud cover and unseasonably warm temperatures during the afternoon.

“The decision was the right one, albeit an unfortunate one,” McCrimmon said. “In hindsight, we’re grateful that no player from either team was injured as a result and hopeful for better conditions.”

The Knights were able to treat the afternoon like a game day, according to McCrimmon. That meant players returned to the hotel and took their usual naps before a pregame meal.

The teams returned to the rink around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and went through their normal warmup routines.

“Less disruptive than you might expect,” McCrimmon said. “We’re excited to get back to the rink. Unfortunate that it happened this way, but excited to play under the lights as well. I think that’s going to be pretty neat, also.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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