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Unseasonable warmth, rain may threaten 2017 NHL Winter Classic in St. Louis

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Inclement weather may throw a wrench into plans for the 2017 NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Monday.

The game between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues is slated for 1 p.m. EST. However, rain and unseasonably warm conditions during the afternoon Monday could lead to dangerous or unplayable conditions on the outdoor rink.

Temperatures will be 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun.

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St. Louis Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk (22) and Chicago Blackhawks' Alexandre Fortin (82) reach for the puck during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game, Oct. 8, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)


“A mild day is in store for the Winter Classic in St. Louis. Highs will top out in the upper 50s, which will make it difficult for maintenance to keep the ice rink frozen," Rathbun said. "Rain will also fall, which will lead to ponding of water on the rink and difficult playing conditions."

A normal high temperature for Jan 2. in St. Louis is 40.

If the game is delayed, it could be played Monday night or rescheduled for Tuesday night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Colder air will not return to St. Louis until Wednesday when highs will struggle to reach the freezing mark, Rathbun said.

According to the NHL, an outdoor rink requires up to 2 inches of ice thickness to help withstand the more extreme elements. The NHL monitors the condition of the ice 24 hours a day by using a high-tech system called "Eye on the Ice," which is embedded into the rink. This technology provides updates on temperatures for different parts of the ice.

The ideal conditions for hosting an outdoor hockey game would be temperatures in the low 30s with overcast skies and a touch of light snow, NHL officials have said previously.

The NHL has experienced bad weather during the Winter Classic before. In 2011, the game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was moved from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. due to rain and warm conditions.

“We’ve dealt with it before, so we’ll deal with it again if we have to,” Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports, told the Post-Dispatch. "We’re hopeful that everything cooperates. We’ve all been looking at the weather; we’re all well aware of what the pitfalls are.”


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook