Record snowfall led to dangerous driving conditions around the Boston area on Saturday, leading the NHL to cancel the Tampa Bay Lightning game scheduled against the Bruins.
While no makeup date has been announced, April 25 has been discussed as a possible date as both teams are off that day with no game the following day.
Though a travel ban, invoked by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday to keep all but essential vehicles off roads, was lifted at 4 p.m. Saturday, the driving conditions were still treacherous in the city.
"Although both clubs and the assigned on-ice officials are in Boston, travel conditions remain too hazardous for fans, security personnel and TD Garden staff to get to the arena," the league announced in a statement.
No matter when the Lightning have to make a return to Boston, it will be hard to forget their most recent trip after experiencing one of the biggest blizzards in Massachusetts history. The storm officially dumped just over 24 inches of snow in Boston, while other areas in Connecticut were well over 30 inches.
It left players and staff bunkered down in the hotel for most of Friday and into Saturday morning. And with major airports around the region shut down until late Friday night, team officials were left scrambling to arrange a five-and-a-half-hour bus trip to New York City ahead of tonight's game against the Rangers.
It left Lightning director of team services Ryan Belec — who is in charge of arranging all the travel and hotel accommodations for the team — challenged to have a plan in place no matter what scenario the team was presented. Depending if Saturday's game was played or canceled, it had a bearing on how the team was going to get to New York.
"It was more or less a Plan A and a Plan B," Belec said. "We had both in place so that when the decision was made we activated one or the other. So it was a lot of communication, lots of text messages, lots of phone calls ... that's what the last two days has been all about."
Then there were unforeseen issues, such as the team bus getting briefly stuck on a snow bank trying to make a turn on the way to the rink in the morning. Or, after the team bus stopped at a travel plaza outside of Milford, Conn., having an issue getting the door to close and the engine to restart that had Belec in contact with bus companies in both Boston and New York to possibly find another bus to get the team to New York. But the bus restarted shortly after and the trip to New York continued, ending one of the more difficult issues Belec has had to resolve.
"We've had weather issues before, but that usually means moving a flight back a little bit," Belec said. "This one involved a canceled game, and now having to reschedule it whenever that is, different hotels in Boston and New York, so this is at the top of what I've seen."
All that being said, it was more or less just an inconvenience in the schedule.
"There is nothing you can do about it, so there's no sense in worrying," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. "It's OK, we've been sitting here waiting, we got a (morning skate) in today so it's not all bad. And the positive is we are playing the Rangers rested and not going back-to-back."
The lengthy bus ride Saturday night, which took more than five hours to complete through highways still covered with snow and plows still working to clear the road, capped off a madcap weekend.
Tampa Bay arrived in Boston early in the morning on Friday after playing in New Jersey a few hours earlier, well ahead of any of the anticipated bad weather. But as the team was wrapping up an optional skate early Friday afternoon, heavy snow started to fall and the winds began to pick up. It was around this time that the league announced the start time for Saturday's game was being moved back to 7 p.m. from the original 1 p.m. start time.
By Friday evening, the roads were already filling up with snow and the plows had a difficult time keeping up. The blizzard conditions, which featured wind gusts approaching hurricane strength, continued throughout the night and left the city blanketed in white by the morning. Despite the conditions, the team boarded a bus to head for TD Garden for a morning skate as speculation started to circulate that the game would be postponed.
When the team arrived back at its hotel, there was no word about the status of the game. It wasn't until around 2:45 p.m. that word spread it was canceled and the team needed to be on a bus for a 4 p.m. departure. That meant traveling the snow-covered highways in Massachusetts and Connecticut before safely arriving in New York.
"All things considered it went well," Belec said. "We just got here a little later than we wanted."