Photo: The Pink Puck

With the NHL breaking a New Year’s Day Winter Classic tradition, the BlackhawksBlues event at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium has teams pondering how to handle rainy-day pond hockey.

While the Alumni Game Saturday was perfect and Sunday practices feature ideal conditions in the upper-30s/lower-40s and overcast, Monday’s forecast shows a high around 50 with fog and increasing likelihood for rain.

Following a seemingly successful practice, the Blackhawks addressed the potential for delays–a concept not too rare for them as they approach their fifth outdoor game. In 2015, the sun’s glare on the ice at the Nationals Field against the Capitals threatened setbacks. In their Soldier Field Stadium Series, snow coated the players and the ice. And, in 2009, Wrigley Field was bitterly cold.

Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said the Blackhawks could have the advantage when it comes to idle time thanks to previous outdoor experience, while Hawks coach Joel Quenneville noted that the Hawks have played games starting at 11:30 a.m. CT, in the middle of the afternoon, and anywhere from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the postseason.

Ultimately, both teams are hoping to avoid what the Penguins and Capitals faced in 2011, with the day start pushed back to 8 p.m. ET for rain. But, at least they found out the night before.

“Obviously weather you can’t control,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “Hopefully we have enough head’s up where it’s not hour-to-hour.”

So far, teams are expecting final word in the morning. Most would like to push through as planned but will be prepared for flexibility.

“I think the NHL will want to get this on as soon as possible,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “If we have to play through a little rain, we’ll do it.”

Similarly, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews said the conditions aren’t terribly worrisome since they’ll be the same for both teams.

“There’s always ways around it,” he said. “Take it into consideration and be ready for it. Be ready whenever.”

Duncan Keith said players have ways to stay physically loose, but downtime could be a threat to mental preparation.

“A lot of it is being mentally tough,” he said. “We have to understand that not everything is going to be perfect.”

Their routines usually involve little workouts like hallway soccer, but the players will have to find ways to stay occupied if forced to wait it out at Busch.

“I don’t know,” Blackhawks Goalie Corey Crawford said. “Batting cages, maybe?”

As of 5:00 p.m. Sunday, the Winter Classic is still set to begin at 12:00 p.m. (noon) CT.

Carly grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.


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