MIAMI (AP) – The game between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs was rescheduled for tonight to beat Hurricane Wilma.

The game will begin at 7 p.m. Friday instead of Sunday afternoon, which is about when Wilma is expected to hit Florida’s southwestern coast.

It’ll be televised by CBS affiliates in South Florida and Kansas City, but there will be no national telecast.

“We are not extending the telecast to more markets because we want to adhere as closely as possible to the spirit of our longstanding policy not to conflict with high school and college football during their seasons (which means Friday night and Saturday),” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

It’s the third time since the start of the 2004 season that the Dolphins have rescheduled a home game because of a looming hurricane. Last year’s home opener against Tennessee was played a day early because of Hurricane Ivan, and the Dolphins’ game two weeks later with Pittsburgh was pushed back 71/2 hours by Hurricane Jeanne.

The unusual schedule will present the Chiefs with a tough itinerary: They’ll fly to South Florida on Friday morning, have a pre-game meal and chapel services, then play the game in the evening.

“We’ve got to go down there and be the best football team they could send down there,” Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Thursday. “There’s an opportunity to go win a football game.”

Meanwhile, the NHL’s Florida Panthers – who originally planned to make an announcement Thursday about their game with Ottawa on Saturday night – delayed any final decisions and continued monitoring the storm’s path. The league and team officials planned to make that call Friday.

Wilma’s progress slowed a bit Thursday, and forecasters who originally thought the giant system could start a potentially devastating path across the Florida peninsula by Saturday now believe landfall in the Sunshine State may not occur until Sunday.

Still, the storm was a Category 4 – severe enough that Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency.

Wilma’s pending arrival has affected virtually every athletic event scheduled for the Sunshine State this weekend.

The Nationwide Tour’s Miccosukee Championship in Miami was canceled. The Georgia Tech-Miami and West Virginia-South Florida football games were postponed from Saturday; the Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes will play Nov. 19, the Mountaineers and Bulls on Dec. 3. And Central Florida will host Tulane – a team whose school was ravaged by Katrina earlier this year – on Friday night, one day ahead of schedule.

AP-ES-10-20-05 2021EDT

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