-- Dan Craig and Don Renzulli believe Mother Nature will once again prove she's a hockey fan on New Year's Day.
The current weather forecast for Jan. 1 calls for showers and temperatures in the mid-40s, but Renzulli firmly believes the puck will drop in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. It just might be delayed a little while.
"We're getting updates twice a day right now and any changes we'll get them immediately," Renzulli, the NHL's Senior V.P. of Events, said in Monday afternoon's media briefing. "I've been watching the weather for the last two weeks and it's gone from snow to rain. I've got a feeling the hockey gods will be in our favor."
Obviously, the most recent weather forecast isn't ideal for outdoor hockey to be played on Saturday, but Renzulli said the NHL's window with the television networks, NBC and CBC, is so long that the game could be delayed up to seven hours before it would finally have to be postponed until noon on Jan. 2.
If rain washes out the entire weekend the Winter Classic would be played at Consol Energy Center later in the season.
"The idea is yes, we could go until about 8 o'clock that night (Jan. 1) so we plan to stay here to get this game in," Renzulli said. "If we have heavy downpours and we know about that the prior day we'll have those discussions with the Commissioner and make the decision then if we're going to make a change and then we'll get that out to the public."
Craig, the League's Facilities Operations Manager, said rain wouldn't adversely affect the ice because whatever drops down on the surface would immediately freeze.
"Our truck runs really hard and we've been cruising," Craig said. "It hasn't even fluctuated with the water we've been putting on it now and we have an inch and a half on it right now. I'm pretty sure anything within the forecast right now it falls down, it's going to freeze and we're going to be in good shape.
Player and patron safety would be at the forefront of the League's concerns should it rain heavily Jan. 1. The decision-making process will rely heavily on the feedback from the players involved in the game.
Visibility and flow of the game are the areas that would be addressed before the game is delayed or postponed. Of course, ice quality will be a part of the discussion.
"I'll weigh in on it and I'll put my expertise on the table and the Commissioner will make this decision from that point," Craig said. "We want to make sure everybody who comes here is coming here for the absolute greatest experience that they're going to have this year."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl