Huge winter storm strands teams, wreaks havoc across sports
(AP) -- Sports teams were scrambling a day after a blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow along portions of the East Coast, stranding two NHL franchises near New York City and forcing Philadelphia to dig out before Tuesday night's NFL game.
The snow was even a problem for those who race on ice. The U.S. luge team's travel plans to Germany were taken for a ride.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were stuck in traffic for four hours while heavy snow and gusting winds whipped through New Jersey on Sunday night. The Leafs were returning to their hotel after beating the Devils 4-1 in Newark when New Jersey State Police closed the road. A 20-minute ride in clear weather became an exercise in patience.
"It's totally out of your control," said Dave Poulin, the Maple Leafs' vice president of hockey operations. Poulin added the team was comfortable and there was little grousing.
"You're on a great big warm bus that's absolutely full with 200 gallons of gas," he said.
Some of the players passed the time by tweeting. Center Tyler Bozak told his followers: "Roads closed in new jersey stuck on the bussss. Brutaallll!!"
The team finally arrived at the hotel about 3 a.m., five hours after leaving the Prudential Center. The next concern was when Newark Liberty Airport would open so the team could head back to Toronto, where a game against Carolina is scheduled for Tuesday night.
The Montreal Canadiens also were concerned about flying out after losing to the New York Islanders 4-1 on Sunday. Republic Airport on Long Island had been closed while a fleet of snow blowers and other equipment tried to clear its two runways, but the Canadiens were expected to depart Monday afternoon for a game Tuesday night at Washington.
Workers in Philadelphia were busy digging out Lincoln Financial Field before the Eagles played the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday night. The game was postponed from Sunday when the storm system dumped about a foot of snow on Philadelphia. The extra time could help the Vikings get quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson healthy enough to play.
"The roads are bad for East Coast standards," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "But if this was in the Midwest there would be no way that this would be delayed."
Pennsylvania's governor seemed to agree.
"This is football; football's played in bad weather," Ed Rendell told KYW-TV on Sunday. "The fans would have gotten there, the subways work and the major arteries are still open and other fans would have stayed home. But you play football regardless of the weather."
Other NFL teams planned to travel home Monday after storms put a crimp in their plans.
The New York Jets spent the night in Chicago following a 38-34 loss to the Bears. The New England Patriots were also stranded until Monday after a 34-3 win in Buffalo, and the New York Giants spent the night in Appleton, Wis., after a 45-17 loss at Green Bay.
"Depressing," Giants tight end Kevin Boss said. "It would've been a lot easier with a win."
USA Luge planned to begin after-Christmas training in Koenigssee, Germany, on Tuesday. The team will instead fly out of Washington and Chicago and arrive in Germany on Wednesday -- meaning the Americans will miss two days of training before the World Cup season resumes Jan. 5.
The storm also caused trouble for numerous college events.
Fordham's men's team was scheduled to face Georgia Tech on Monday night, but the game was called off when the Rams' flight to Atlanta was canceled. Florida canceled its game against Fairfield on Tuesday night because the Stags couldn't make the trip from Fairfield, Conn.
The start of women's tournaments in New York and New Orleans were delayed until Wednesday, and the Boston-Richmond and Arizona-Marist women's games scheduled for Tuesday were postponed.
The weather also caused a kickoff event in Times Square for the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl to be postponed until Tuesday. Kansas State plays Syracuse on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
While snow and cold caused numerous problems this past weekend, unseasonably warm weather could create more problems by Saturday. Along with melting snow and the potential for flooding, the mild forecast is concerning NHL officials at the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh.
Rain showers and temperatures in the low 50s are expected for the outdoor game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field on New Year's Day. Light rain could freeze almost immediately after hitting the ice, creating an uneven surface that could quickly become unplayable. A steadier rain is even worse because it might flood the surface.
The game can be played only Saturday or Sunday because the stadium must be turned over to the Steelers. If the Winter Classic is not played this weekend, the game would be rescheduled for later this season at the Penguins' arena.