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NHL Officials Talk Rink Progress, Weather Concerns

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The weather here in Pittsburgh could cause problems for the Winter Classic game between the Penguins and Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day.

Rain in the forecast could force the National Hockey League to change their plans.

Officials with the NHL held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the topic as well as everything else Winter Classic related.

As the preparations continued today over at Heinz Field, there was a very special guest over at the community rink on the North Shore early this afternoon.

Penguins’ great and hockey legend Mario Lemieux accompanied his son’s team onto the outdoor rink for practice.

Lemieux was almost incognito in his winter cap and sunglasses, but he will be unmistakable on the Heinz Field ice rink when he leads the Pens’ alumni against the Caps’ alumni on Friday morning.

“I think with Mario coming out leading this, it’s going to be exciting to people that come. We’ll have a great day, fired up by the practice for the club,” said Don Renzulli, the NHL’s senior vice president of events. “I think it’s something we’ll see in the future at other Winter Classics going forward.”

The turf at Heinz Field has been making the transition to ice rink since the Steelers game ended last Thursday night. Crews are now in the “building-up-the-ice” stage.

However, the forecast calls for 50 degree temperatures and a possibility of rain this weekend.

“We have an inch and a half of ice out there right now and I’m pretty sure that anything that’s within the forecast right now, it falls down and it’s [going to] freeze and we’re going to be in good shape,” said Dan Craig, the NHL’s facilities operations manager.

Crews can reportedly handle a fairly steady rain, just not a torrential downpour.

Meanwhile, a big window has been put in place for the game, just in case of a bad weather situation.

On Saturday, the game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., but they can push that back all the way till 8 p.m. Saturday night. If they can’t get it in then, the game can be moved to noon on Sunday.

However, if they can’t get it in on Saturday or Sunday, then the game will be rescheduled into the NHL’s calendar for a later date at the CONSOL Energy Center.

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