John Collins says game will go on

Updated: December 30, 2010, 6:08 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- The ice is ready, but will there be hockey?

"We're going to play," NHL chief operating officer John Collins said Thursday at a news conference.

Weather forecasts for Saturday's Winter Classic at Heinz Field continue to be gloomy, calling for rain showers. Some forecasts Thursday lowered the probability of rain to 80 percent but other reports kept it at 100 percent.

Collins, the brains behind the Winter Classic, shrugged off the scary forecasts.

"Weather is part of the game's DNA," Collins said. "I mean, it's an outdoor game. Like the World Series, weather gets involved in it. We're going to play. We're planning to play at 1 o'clock. We've got maximum flexibility to do what needs [to be done] to get that game in on Saturday."

Should the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals not be played Saturday, however, the league's Plan B is a game time of noon ET Sunday, still at Heinz Field.

But Collins made it clear every effort will be made to play it Saturday, even if it means playing through weather delays. They can play into the evening, if they have to.

"We'll gather as much information as we possibly can to make sure that we're taking into account the competitive integrity of the game and the safety of the players and obviously the convenience of the fans," Collins said.

Collins has studied weather reports for the city of Pittsburgh going back 30 years.

"I don't really want to be taken to task on this, but I'm not sure it's ever rained on New Year's in Pittsburgh," Collins said, smiling.

Hockey fans just have to adopt the mentality of baseball fans, Collins said. Weather may interrupt the game, but it'll eventually be completed. If it takes four or five hours, so be it.

"I think everybody associated with the game, from the broadcast partners to our corporate partners to our licensees and I think our fans, understand what they're getting into for this," Collins said.

The first Winter Classic in Buffalo was delayed for just a few minutes when Zambonis came out mid-period to resurface the ice in the midst of a snowfall.

This time, like baseball, it could be rain delays.

So be it.

"I can't see that we wouldn't be able to get this game in," Collins said.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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