NHL Arranging Backup Plans for Winter Classic As Rain Threatens Outdoor Event

The Winter Classic officials in Pittsburgh would be more hopeful for a nor'easter than for the weather forecast predicted for the New Year's Day showdown between the Penguins and the Capitals.

The AccuWeather forecast is currently predicting rain showers and temperatures in the low-50s for the Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on Saturday, according to The Associated Press. While event officials have advanced freezing technology for the ice to handle elevated temperatures, rain poses a bigger problem.

Even a light shower will affect the outdoor playing surface, as the rain will immediately freeze onto the ice causing an uneven sheet that will be unsafe for players. Heavier rains could cause flooding on the ice, also creating impossible playing conditions.

Saturday's game is originally scheduled for 1 p.m., but the start time could be pushed back if the conditions are expected to improve later in the day. The NHL has also reserved Heinz Field for Sunday, where the forecast calls for snow flurries and a high of 38 degrees.

Playing on Sunday, however, could pose another problem for the NHL, forcing them to compete with the NFL for ratings. The Steelers may be playing on the road, but their game is definitely important to Pittsburgh fans and the national audience. The Steelers' matchup in Cleveland is a must-win situation to clinch the AFC North title and to earn the No. 2 playoff seed.

While the 50-degree day will be unseasonably warm for Pittsburgh this time of year — especially considering its chilly December — Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says his team is prepared to deal with the weather.

"It's something you've got to deal with," Crosby said. "It's something that's a possibility, but it's not unusual for a game like that. I don't think you're going to hear any complaints. We'll just cross our fingers and hope all the conditions are well. I think whatever happens, whatever the forecast is, whatever the weather is, we're just happy to be in that game."

Saturday and Sunday are the only possible days for the Winter Classic to be played at Heinz Field, as the NHL is required to turn the stadium back over to the Steelers. If the game is not played this weekend, it  will be rescheduled for later this season at Consol Energy Center.

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