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NHL considers allowing sunglasses at Winter Classic

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

WASHINGTON -- The question was set up on a tee for Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner to knock it out of the park.

He crushed it.

Every Capitals player was issued Oakley sunglasses on Wednesday, but Alzner was the only player to wear them during the practice at Nationals Park. Alzner was asked why he was the only one who did.

"Because I'm the only smart one," Alzner joked.

"Well, we don't really need to get into that," cracked Capitals forward Joel Ward.

OK, we'll leave the IQ tests for another day. On Wednesday, though, Alzner's solution to practicing in the sun became the envy of his teammates, and also brought about a legitimate question:

Is it legal for players to wear sunglasses during the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Thursday at Nationals Park if the sun is as bright and the glare on the ice as challenging as it was Wednesday. The forecast calls for a sunny day.

The answer is that the NHL is currently considering it, according to Kris King, the senior vice president of hockey operations. No decision had been made as of Wednesday night.

There is no mention of glasses in the NHL Rulebook (Rule 9 - Uniforms), and players used to wear glasses before contact lenses became popular.

Alzner said he would definitely wear his sunglasses in the game if the League allows him to.

"If I need to, yeah," he said. "If it's sunny out I will, definitely. I took them off for a little bit during our PP, PK and you notice a difference right away. I'm planning on wearing them."

The good news is that the rink was covered almost fully in shade by the time the Chicago Blackhawks took the ice at 2:30, so if the game starts on time and it's sunny, the glare won't be an issue much beyond the first intermission.

"We had that one little spot in the corner as the sun was just about out of sight," Blackhawks center Brad Richards said. "After that it was great."

Capitals defenseman Mike Green said he didn't go out onto the ice wearing sunglasses because he didn't know if he was allowed to. He didn't notice Alzner had them on until practice had started.

"I didn't know if that was even legal," he said. "I guess practice is fine, but the game, I don't know if we'll be able to wear those."

Alzner said he was planning to wear sunglasses anyway, so when he found the pair from Oakley in his locker stall it made his decision even easier.

"I said if the baseball players are using them here I should use them here," he said. "If you can make the glasses work, why not wear them."

Ward gave Alzner style points for the glasses, and said it clearly looked like they helped him.

"I caught myself a few times squinting and looking for pucks," Ward said. "It looked like he was in cruise control."

However, Ward said he won't wear glasses during the game even if given the option, partly because he didn't get to test out his vision with them on during practice the way Alzner did.

"Maybe in warmups I'll try it out because there were a couple of moments when you were really squinting to find and look for pucks, but I probably won't," Ward said. "I'll probably just go out there and just go, just play and just enjoy it. That's the approach I'm taking."

Richards also said he wouldn't wear sunglasses Thursday.

"But I have enough trouble that I'm not going to bother putting sunglasses on," he joked.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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