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The Winter Classic

Capitals vs. Penguins, Jan. 1, 8 p.m., NBC

Bracing for the Winter Classic

When the Capitals meet the archrival Penguins at Heinz Field on Jan. 1, the visual spectacle should be stunning. The actual game could be really wet.

Photo illustration of Heinz Field with an NHL rink
Washington Post photo Illustration; Associated Press photos


The bad news is that up to 3/4 of an inch of rain is predicted, but the good news is that it should begin to taper off after 1 p.m. Light rain would just freeze with no problem, but downpours could hamper visibility and cause dangerous ice conditions.


The forecast high temperature is in the low 50s, but it should cool into the 40s by aernoon as a cold front moves through. The rink's refrigeration system has been tested at 50 degrees, and Dan Craig of the NHL has said it could maintain ice in even warmer weather.


Heinz Field, which sits in a basin at the intersection of three rivers, is known for swirling winds. A 5 to 10 mph breeze will come out of the south early in the day and will pick up a bit and shift, coming from the west, as the front goes through midafternoon.


Chance for snow is remote, but any accumulation would be removed from the ice during TV timeouts.


Extreme cold would be bad for everyone - even the ice, which begins to crack and fray at -2 degrees. Fortunately, this is one problem Heinz Field is unlikely to have this weekend, as the predicted low is 40.

If you're going ...

Staff writer Matt Rennie, who has recently thawed out from the outdoor Michigan-Michigan State hockey game on Dec. 11, offers these tips:

Bring lip balm. With the game at night and more beverages needed, this is even more important.

Dress in layers. A breeze kicking up can suddenly cool your seat by 10 degrees or more.

Don't bring umbrellas. The stadium bans them, even when rain is forecast.


Check the Capital Weather Gang blog and follow @capitalweather on Twitter for constant updates on the conditions in Pittsburgh

SOURCES: NHL, National Weather Service, Pittsburgh Business Times, staff photos
GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Patterson Clark and Chris Rukan / The Washington Post - Dec. 30, 2010.

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