‘Ideal’ rink, weather expected for 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic

BOSTON — It was shortly before 2 pm ET on Friday when Derek King, the NHL’s senior director of facilities and hockey operations, was wrapping up his sun study from the State Street Pavilion Club, high above the home dugout down the first base line at Fenway Park.

A small sun glare was still visible in one corner, but otherwise the rink King and his crew have been building since Dec. 18 was under cloud cover with a slightly overcast sky and clear blue visible beyond the Green Monster in left field. It was a shade above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Right now, cloud cover is great, temperature is great,” King said. “This would be ideal for us on the 2nd.”

That would be Monday, when the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins will play in the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic at the iconic home of the Boston Red Sox (2 pm ET; TNT, SN, TVAS). They’ll be coming out for pregame warmups at roughly the same time of day King was finishing his sun study.

[RELATED: 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic coverage]

If the weather report is accurate, the NHL, Penguins, Bruins and the more than 37,000 fans expected to walk through the gates at Fenway Park could get a comfortable game day with similar conditions as Friday, save for it being perhaps a few degrees colder.

“There’s some rain coming in tomorrow and on the 1st,” King said, “but then once we get through the afternoon on the 1st, clouds start to clear and it’s supposed to be a partly cloudy day on the 2nd. Temperatures are high 40s , low 50s, so that will be great for game time.”

But King and the NHL’s ice crew for the Winter Classic have to get to Monday and hope there won’t be any hiccups along the way.

King said he’s not worried about the rain in the forecast Saturday night into Sunday morning because it’s not supposed to be heavy, and they can either clear any excess water easily or freeze it. He said the expectation is for a light drizzle by early afternoon.

The Bruins are scheduled to practice at Fenway Park at 2:30 pm ET on Sunday with a family skate to follow. The Penguins have the ice at 4:30, also with a family skate afterwards.

“I think for practice time it’s going to be dry,” King said. “That’s the hope right now. We saw weather two days ago where they were saying we’d get a half-inch of rain, but now that’s gone away.”

Video: Watch Fenway Park transform for 2023 Winter Classic

Regardless, the NHL booked ice time at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins’ practice facility, as a contingency in case the weather doesn’t cooperate on practice day, but as of now the expectation is for each team to get on the ice at Fenway Park.

“The teams really want to be here, they want to get outside, they want their players to feel it and they want their families to have fun,” said Kris King, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. “Every forecast we’re getting is trending in a better position for us. We have a plan tomorrow night to be here as long as we have to be here to get the water off the ice or freeze it and we’re pretty confident we ‘ll be able to get both teams out there Sunday.”

The ice crew was at work shortly after 2 pm ET Friday removing the insulated tarps covering the ice and protecting it from the sun.

All the lines and logos are in place, so Derek King said more ice would be built in the evening as a sealer, and his crew’s hope was to leave the ballpark early so they can rest up for what is expected to be a 24-hour shift of maintaining the sheet from New Year’s Eve through New Year’s Day.

“We’ll be game-ready by the end of tonight,” King said. “We’re ahead of schedule, which we like to be. We hate leaving everything to the last minute.”

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