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A high-altitude sun beat down on the outdoor ice at Lake Tahoe on Saturday afternoon when the NHL postponed the Avalanche-Golden Knights game for eight hours.
The decision appeared far from unanimous among Colorado players.
Gabe Landeskog: “They didn’t want to play, it seemed like. But we did.”
Nathan MacKinnon: “The ice was bad but we never even thought of stopping. I never even thought it was a possibility. I thought we were just going to grind it out.”
Mikko Rantanen: “It’s a little bit frustrating, I have to admit.”
The Avalanche escaped with a 3-2 win on the 18th fairway of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nev., after enduring an unprecedented sequence of events. Coach Jared Bednar huddled with NHL officials, including commissioner Gary Bettman, after the first period when the league discussed its options with zero sun-relief in sight, making for borderline unsafe skating conditions.
“Players knew there were some real trouble spots on the ice,” Bednar said. “The league came to us and said this isn’t looking good here. They were going to try and save the ice and see if we can continue to play. Or we might have to play at night or in the morning. I think everyone, including the league, wanted to try and get it done tonight.”
The first period started at noon local time. The second did not begin until 9 p.m.
How were the Avs able to stay fresh and focused?
“We went back to the hotel and made some lunch,” Rantanen said. “Guys were in their room and had a nap or something like that. Just rest up and get ready again — like another game almost.”
Landeskog added: “I didn’t think I was going to be able to nap, but I got an hour in. I woke up and it was dark outside.”
Colorado kept momentum rolling upon its return to the ice, even after Vegas tied the game midway through the second period. Skating speed was noticeably faster with play illuminated by stadium lighting instead of an unforgiving sun. It appeared both teams avoided any significant injuries, which was the NHL’s first priority.
“The ice crew did an amazing job on getting the ice back to where it was really good for the second and third period here,” Bednar said. “That break is not what anyone wants or ideal circumstances. … I thought our guys handled it amazing with their attitude and sort of rolling with the punches.”
This marks consecutive seasons that Avalanche outdoor games faced major logistical challenges, following the 2020 traffic flow fiasco at Air Force. On Saturday, a common refrain among the Avalanche was an appreciation for the spectacle despite the postponement.
“I really kind of sat back and tried to enjoy it a little bit more,” Bednar said. “The Air Force game was busy. I just didn’t get any time to sort of soak it all in. … This time, I certainly did that and our team came out with a big win. It was a fun night.”