The Arizona Coyotes made headlines on Sunday when they had to cancel their pre-season game against the Los Angeles Kings, citing poor ice conditions.
Who would have thought that an arena based in Glendale — with average temperatures ranging from mid-50s to high-90s in fahrenheit — would have trouble with ice conditions?
This isn’t the first time that a pre-season game has been cancelled, it happened to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers in 2010 and their game was expunged due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nicole.
Given that hockey is played inside the safe haven of arenas, weather doesn’t typically affect its games. But over the course of the history of the NHL (and one wet AHL game) poor ice conditions have occasionally stirred some games.
We took the liberty of highlighting the best ones for you.
May 20, 1975: Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres
Have you ever been so desperate to see your team of choice play that you picked up whatever tickets you could find to watch them live? They could be the nosebleed seats, the obstructed view seats or even that little area behind the final row where you can stand and lean up against the wall. The view from these spots, generally, sucks.
Now imagine if every seat in the arena was like this. And it’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Thats what happened back in May of 1975 when the Philadelphia Flyers were visiting the Buffalo Sabres in a game that would come to be known as the “Fog Game.”
The Sabres were hosting the game at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, which was built in 1940 and was missing a key piece of equipment: air conditioning.
Normally, the temperature in upstate New York is cold enough during the hockey season that air conditioning wasn’t found to be necessary, but the Sabres were playing deep into the playoffs for the first time and the spring temperatures were starting to climb. The temperature in Buffalo was 27 C and the humidity caused the craziness to begin.
In the first period, a bat that established it’s home somewhere in the rafters decided it was a tad too hot and went for a little cool-down fly during a faceoff. Unfortunately, it flew too close to the ice level and Sabres forward Jim Lorentz took it upon himself to … bat … it out of mid-air.
Then the fog came.
With 15,863 packed into the barn that night, things started to heat up. At first the fog was just blocking out the sight of the players’ legs, but as it grew whole players disappeared from action in the grey mist. A total of five stoppages occurred during the first three periods and another seven times during overtime.
Eventually, Sabres forward Rene Robert potted the overtime winner.
Flyers goalie Bernie Parent never saw it.
Jan. 22, 1987: Calgary Flames vs. New Jersey Devils
Back in ’87, it wasn’t the ice on the rink that caused the disturbance, but rather the ice on the streets.
A blizzard covered the New York City area and two feet of snow fell from the sky. The Devils were expecting — based on tickets sold — 11,247 fans in attendance, but because of outrageous traffic conditions, only 334 fans actually made it to the game.
The game is believed to the the lowest attended game in modern NHL history.
Sept. 27, 1991: Los Angeles Kings vs. New York Rangers
The Vegas Golden Knights played in their first pre-season game against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday and are eagerly awaiting to host their first NHL game pre-season game on Sept. 26.
But it will not be the first time Las Vegas hosts an exhibition game.
In 1991, the Los Angeles Kings played the New York Rangers in pre-season action in the parking lot of Caesars Palace. As one would expect, things got a little toasty. After a tarp malfunction, the ice took a serious hit due to some heavy melting. Rangers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck recalled the ice looking like “a puddle.”
Luckily, they were able to recover the surface in time for the game and the players only missed out on their pre-game skate.
Then the locusts swarmed.
Yes, you read that right.
The black insects flooded the ice throughout the night — some even got frozen in the ice as the rink recovered — and one managed to trip up Tie Domi as he was on a breakaway.
Jan. 1, 2008: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres
It was the inaugural Winter Classic game, the Pittsburgh Penguins travelled to Ralph Wilson Stadium and the 71,000 fans packed inside to take on the host Buffalo Sabres.
Prior to the game and through the first period, the snow fell and the players battled to get accumulated to the bizarre conditions in front of them. Then a series of holes popped up around the ice that saw players spin out and drop to their knees as they tried to navigate around them. Finally, a heavy carpet of snow started to fall in the final five minutes of regulation that would affect the outcome of the game.
After an overtime that decided no victor, Sidney Crosby stood at centre ice, snow falling around him, facing off against Ryan Miller in the deciding shootout attempt.
As Sid the Kid skated towards the Sabres goalie, the puck was invisible apart from a moving pile of snow seemingly attached to the end of Crosby’s stick. As soon as Crosby made it to the area immediately in front of the net that had been shovelled, he pulled a quick right-left move and put the puck between Miller’s legs for the win.
Jan. 8, 2017: Ontario Reign vs. Bakersfield Condors
Another outdoor game falls victim to mother nature, and this time it’s in the AHL.
The Ontario Reign were taking on the Bakersfield Condors at the Outdoor Classic and they played in a downfall of pouring rain.
There was so much rain that at one point it looked like the players were playing on a swimming pool.