A sunny forecast could delay the Winter Classic start time. (USATSI)
A sunny forecast could delay the Winter Classic start time. (USATSI)

Sunny days in the middle of winter are usually a welcome sight in the middle of the usual dreariness, but not if you're trying to host a massive outdoor hockey game.

The 2015 NHL Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET. However, with a sunny day at about 41 degrees in the forecast, that opening faceoff time could present a problem at Nationals Park. Glare is probably the biggest issue, as is the quality of the ice being impacted by the heat from the sun.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed the media Wednesday ahead of the Washington Capitals' first skate on the ice surface at the baseball stadium. He said that the start time for the New Year's Day game could end up being pushed back up to 90 minutes from its scheduled start time if the sun presents a problem (via ESPN.com).

Around 2:30 p.m. ET, the shadows would likely cover the entire ice surface, making it easier for the players and particularly the goalies to see what they're doing and find the puck. It's as much a safety issue as it is an ice surface issue. A final decision on the start time won't come until game day.

The 2012 Winter Classic start time between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers was delayed two hours because of sun glare at Citizens Bank Park. The same happened for the Stadium Series game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium last year.

These start times are usually set under the assumption that there will be winter weather, which usually means there will be clouds. It's tough to predict, but that's the nature of trying to plan an outdoor hockey game. Additionally, the league's scheduling tries to avoid the biggest bowl games of New Year's Day and there's a real big one coming up with the Rose Bowl between Oregon and Florida State set to kick off at 5 p.m. ET. A delay to 2:30 p.m. ET would probably cause the Winter Classic to bleed into the start time for that game, which could put a damper on television ratings.

It's not an ideal scenario for the NHL, but it's something they have dealt with before and if they do have to delay the start, it will being in the best interest of the quality of the game and the quality of the television experience for what should be a large audience.