Hjalmarsson: Conditions 'dangerous'

WASHINGTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals decided to start the Winter Classic on time despite the sun still shining on the outdoor ice at Nationals Park on Thursday.

But it wasn't a unanimous opinion.

Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson thought the conditions were dangerous, and said both teams were lucky not to have anyone injured during the first period.

"It was pretty tough to be honest with you," Hjalmarsson said. "It was not the best for us to play in that kind of weather. It was tough to see the puck. I think it was kind of dangerous. No one got hurt at least. The second and third were much better. It was perfect weather, I think. The ice was decent, too. The second and third was nice."

The Blackhawks and Capitals took the ice for warm-ups around 12:45 p.m. ET. The two captains, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, talked to their respective goaltenders and then met briefly to confirm that starting on time was doable. They believed the conditions were safe enough and began the game at 1:29 p.m. ET.

"Well, I'm pretty sure him and I, because we are the captain and with the goalies, made the decision -- especially the goalies, and they just said, 'Yeah, we're ready to go and we're just going to play 10 minutes and then switch the sides,'" Ovechkin said.

League and players' association officials were also involved in the decision not to delay the game's start.

"Both representatives from each side were trying to figure out if we're going to start the game on time or delay it," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, who was a team representative. "I think everybody agreed it was safe enough to play. The sun was the issue, but I'm glad we started on time."

Commissioner Gary Bettman elaborated on the decision after the game.

"We decided that we would have the players come out and warm up and see how comfortable they were with the sun conditions," he said. "The ice was fine; that was never an issue. The report we got back from Corey Crawford, the goaltender who was in the sun for Chicago, that he was comfortable, and the two captains told us that they were comfortable and we decided to switch ends -- just to make sure that nobody had any issues about fairness at the 10-minute mark. It worked out perfectly well. It was a non-issue.

"For us, the primary issue, if there was to be an issue, was player safety. Once we were comfortable that that wasn't going to be an issue, everyone decided -- I decided it was time to go and play on time."

No other players vocalized concerns over the conditions, but plenty attested to their vision being impaired in the first period. The teams switched sides midway through the first period in an attempt to be fair about the conditions.

"The first period, it was a little bit difficult to see," said Capitals forward Eric Fehr, who scored the game's first goal on a first-period breakaway. "It was even for both teams, so you just got to deal with it. It worked out for us."

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby shared similar thoughts.

"The first period was definitely a challenge," Holtby said. "It was tough to pick up pucks. But it's equal for both goalies, so I think the people involved with putting it on did their absolute best at making sure it was comfortable for us as players and the product on the ice was really good."

Hjalmarsson was asked if his opinion was in the minority.

"I don't know," he said. "It's just what I think."

ESPN.com's Scott Burnside contributed to this report.