For the unaware, the state of New Jersey and most of the northeast of the United States is about to face a significant snow storm. How significant? Reports of 12 to 24 inches of snow in some parts of the state with lesser amounts elsewhere; with lesser being about 10 to 16 inches and mixed in with sleet. A blizzard warning is in effect for the entire Tuesday including an overnight period on Wednesday. Many schools in the area are closed, many companies have already planned to shut down in advance of the inclement weather on Tuesday, and everyone is generally encouraged to stay in a safe place in the face of this winter storm.
Needless to say, this could impact tomorrow’s scheduled home game between the New Jersey Devils and the Winnipeg Jets. Ahead of what the weather will actually do, now is a good time as any to go over what to expect.
First and foremost, please put your safety first. A hockey game, never mind one between two playoff-less teams, isn’t worth going out in a snowstorm to see. Yes, the 334 Club is well remembered, but it doesn’t mean you should go try to be a member of the 2017 version of it by traveling to Newark or to a bus or train, assuming NJ Transit will even be running on Tuesday. Besides, there may not even be a game tomorrow.
Unless I’m mistaken, the requirements for an official NHL game to take place is that both teams and officials are present and able to play the game. No fans are required to be in the stands. No broadcast is necessary. Just the main players, refs, linesmen, and other staff members. If New Jersey, Winnipeg, and officials representing the league are all at the Rock tomorrow night, then they’ll likely play the game and it will count. Especially since this is the middle of March and we’re near the end of the season.
What puts this in doubt is the fact that Winnipeg is not in Newark right now. As of this writing, they are in Nashville, Tennessee, leading the Predators by one after the second period. Their game started at 8:08 PM EDT. The game will likely be over at about 10:30 PM EDT. The Jets will likely start traveling at around midnight. With the blizzard expected to start in New Jersey past midnight, I highly question whether a plane can get into Newark Liberty International then or in the early morning (roughly 1-2 AM). I really don’t expect them to make a landing during the day. And that doesn’t even include travelling from Newark Airport to a hotel near the Rock. Who knows if that is even possible over night or during the day tomorrow. So it’s not a guarantee whether the Jets can fly to New Jersey and arrive at the Prudential Center. If they can’t make it, then there’s not going to be a game. And this all assumes the Devils players and any officials can arrive too.
The NHL isn’t going to cancel the game outright. Everyone has to play 82 games: 41 at home and 41 on the road. Despite both teams not having much to play for, it will have to be made up. If this winter storm affected a game in, say, December or January, then it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. There would be several dates to use to make up the game. With less than a month to go until the end of the regular season, it’s a bigger deal. However, I see two possible postponement dates based on the schedules of both teams and the venue:
- Sometime between March 27 and March 29. The Jets are idle on those three days. And the Devils are off from March 27 through March 30. Just as importantly, the Prudential Center is free according to their events calendar on those days. It won’t be ideal for the Jets to travel to Newark in between two home dates, but postponements are already not ideal. March 28 would be perfect as both teams won’t have to play the night before or the night afterwards. March 27 and 29 could work too, although both teams would make either day as part of a back-to-back set.
- If March is not going to work, then it’ll have to be in early April. Both teams are off on April 3 and the Rock is free too. It’s not such an ideal date as both teams will have to play a game on the next night. Devils will play Philadelphia in Newark while the Jets would have to travel to St. Louis. If March doesn’t work, then April 3 appears to be the only other option without extending the season calendar for both teams.
There is another possibility. If I recall correctly, the Contract Bargaining Agreement prevents teams from playing more than two consecutive nights. However, when the Devils had a game against Tampa Bay suspended in the middle of it due to power issues in 2010, I recall that an exception was granted so the remainder of the game could be finished quickly between the two teams. This would be more of a challenge as it is a full game that could be postponed. If the NHL can get an agreement from the teams and the NHLPA to do so, then there are more options. But I would like to think this would be a last option as playing three nights in a row can really tire out the players, increase the risk for injury, and throw off any other plans with the rest of the schedule.
I will admit that this is currently much ado about nothing. For now, the game is still on. And, again, if the Devils, Jets, and officials are there, then there will be a game. We will still have a game preview, we will have a Gamethread, and we will recap it provided it is broadcast. However, please put caution ahead of going to the Rock to watch a team with a ten-game winless streak try yet again to break that streak. It is more important to be safe and sound in what will be a full-on blizzard in the area. If the news changes, we will have a post about it. Thank you for reading.