Who would ever complain about a beautiful sunny day in early February?
Well, it didn't cooperate so well with the outdoor ice rink at TD Ameritrade Park.
It wasn't as much the comfortable, upper-40s temperature that was the problem. It was the direct afternoon sunlight warmed up the ice, particularly the painted blue lines and specifically the blue line on the Northeast side of the rink.
The ice conditions deteriorated during the opening game between the Omaha Lancers and the Lincoln Stars, but the game was completed. The start of the game between UNO and North Dakota was pushed back from its 4:07 p.m. scheduled starting time to 6:07. Shortly after 5 p.m., the starting time was pushed back again to 6:35.
“We're surprised,” said Harold Cliff, president of the Omaha Sports Commission, the group that administered the hockey doubleheader, during the between games delay. “…We were surprised the sun had that much of an effect with a lower temperature. At 40-some degrees, we thought we would be fine.”
Cliff said both Lancers and Stars personnel were consulted during the opening game and decided to continue playing despite the conditions.
“The other game was completed because both coaches and owners wanted to finish the game,” Cliff said. “We gave them the opportunity to delay it and wait for better conditions, but they were unanimous in saying let's finish it.”
Officials from North Dakota and UNO convened with event organizers to discuss whether to delay their game or push it to another day.
Plan B was to play outdoors Sunday. Plan C would be to play inside the CenturyLink Center on Sunday.
The consensus was that, once the sun set beyond the stadium's upper deck, that the ice would freeze quickly and would become playable in short order.
“We all kind of agreed that we couldn't have anyone hurt,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “You look at the ice conditions that the Lancers and Stars were playing on, and then you add about 20 pounds per guy, and now you're really going to jeopardize guys. … You worry about ruts and turning ankles.”
UNO spent part of the delay by returning to their normal locker room across the street at the CenturyLink Center.
“The guys watched TV and we grabbed a bit to eat,” Blais said. “We had to get some food in them. They were over here stretching at 2:30 getting ready for the game and having our meetings, but then you start over.”
So the outdoor doubleheader, almost a year in the making since it was announced, didn't go off without a hitch.
“It's not that disappointing,” Cliff said. “You get used to dealing with conditions that are under your control. If there was something we could have done, I'd feel a lot differently. But weather conditions are what they are and you just have to deal with it.”