Teams to switch ends midway through 3rd period of outdoor game

Updated: December 29, 2007, 5:18 PM ET
Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NHL has made an adjustment to its Winter Classic to equalize any advantage weather might provide during the outdoor game on New Year's Day.

The league decided Saturday that the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins will switch ends midway through the third period. If the game should go into overtime, the teams will switch ends again at the 2-minute mark.

Stiff winds earlier this week delayed the transformation of Ralph Wilson Stadium into a hockey rink, and the NHL doesn't want them to play a significant role in Tuesday's game.

"Because we're outside and not inside in a controlled atmosphere, we want to make sure both teams have the same opportunities," Don Renzulli, the league's senior vice president of events and entertainment, said at the stadium Saturday afternoon.

If the game goes to a shootout, the goalies will choose which net they want to defend, creating a situation in which both teams could end up shooting at the same goal.

The changes were formulated by commissioner Gary Bettman, the league hockey operations, and both the Sabres and Penguins.

The wind usually blows from the west and then swirls inside the stadium bowl. Last Sunday, gusts peaking at 50 mph wreaked havoc with the initial phase of installing the rink on the football field, but the league has since made up for the lost time. The ice-making process is nearing completion, and crews were painting the lines, circles and logos on the white sheet on Saturday.

The teams, also playing Saturday night in Pittsburgh, are scheduled to practice in the stadium on Monday.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press