Bright sun, poor ice delay Avs vs. Golden Knights outdoor game at Lake Tahoe

Colorado Avalanche

CORRECTS STATE TO NEVADA-Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard (49) is surrounded by his teammates after scoring during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights, at the Outdoor Lake Tahoe NHL hockey game in Stateline, Nev., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli))

STATELINE, Nev. (AP/KDVR) — The setting was spectacular but the ice conditions were far from it, leading to an extended delay between the first and second period of the outdoor game between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche at Lake Tahoe.

The NHL decided to halt the game for more than eight hours on Saturday after bright sun and temperatures hovering around freezing led to poor ice conditions that had players and officials repeatedly falling because of holes on the ice.

“We’ve done over 30 outdoor games,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told broadcaster NBC. “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 game was halted after the first period at 1:55 p.m. MDT and Bettman said the plan is to play the final two periods starting at 10 p.m. MDT.

“We kind of wanted to go back out,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said on NBC. “It’s probably a good decision that we moved it tonight, and we’ll be ready to go.”

Crews were working on the ice just before the opening faceoff and issues kept cropping up throughout the period.

The ice issues took away from the spectacular setting for the game, which is being played on a makeshift rink on the 18th fairway of a golf course on the shore of Lake Tahoe, with snow-covered mountains in the background.

It snowed overnight and into the morning before the sun came out. While the pristine conditions made for perfect views, it proved detrimental to the ice.

But the delay didn’t alter Bettman’s commitment to outdoor games, even in unconventional settings outside of a stadium venue like Lake Tahoe.

“This game was really taking the game out to its roots in terms of the surroundings,” Bettman said. “Obviously we tried to do something different in an unusual time, try and give our fans something special. The players were excited about it. … We’re going to continue to do this, but we always knew and we’ll know going forward that when you play outside and ice is important, the weather conditions can affect whether or not we can play the game. We’ve been lucky to this point and I think we’re all disappointed but the teams have been great. … And we move on. You can’t have success if you don’t risk failure.”

Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard wristed a shot from the face-off circle through Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs in the first three minutes of the first period.

The Avalanche will resume the game with three seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 power play followed by 37 seconds of a 5-on-4 because of a double minor for high-sticking by Vegas forward Mark Stone and a penalty on the Golden Knights for too many men on the ice. 

The Avalanche outshot the Golden Knights 17-8 in the first period. Fleury made 14 saves after Girard’s goal.

Unfortunately, Nathan MacKinnon did not make the One Million Dollar Hole-in-One Challenge on the 17th hole as part of the first intermission activity. He attempted the shot from the same spot Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic did in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe in 2011.

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