How the NHL Will Create an Ice Rink at Dodger Stadium
"It's going to be the perfect weather for them," Luc Robitaille told me. This is just minutes after he gave a nervous laugh at a press conference at Dodger Stadium when he mentioned the warm weather we're having.
We're 12 days away from the Kings playing the Ducks at Dodger Stadium, and Los Angeles is currently under a red flag warning until Wednesday night. Temperatures will be in the 80s early this week, and long-range forecasts keep the high temperature in the upper-70s through the day of the game.
This is not going to be the 12-degree snow-filled portrait that the Winter Classic was on New Years Day at the Big House on the campus of the University of Michigan. It's going to be warm. There's going to be a beach volleyball court in left field and an inline skating rink right over home plate.
"I think it will be amazing to see the contrast," Robitaille said deflecting any fears. "I'm sure that's all the tv announcers are going to talk about: how comfortable they'll be sitting."
We were gathered in right field for the arrival of the "ice truck" to Dodger Stadium. This was the same truck responsible for the ice at the Big House some 2,200 miles away. Wayne Gretzky was on hand, a preferable public relations choice to Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. Sutter's counterpoint Bruce Boudreau was also on hand eager to get Gretzky's autograph.
Gretzky was very good here. "The players today are better than we were." "We had the right guys that understood we had a responsibility to market the game." But that's not what interested me.
How the hell were they going to stick a 200-foot by 85-foot rink of ice across the infield of Dodger Stadium?
Enter NHL senior director of facilities operations Dan Craig, not to be confused with the current James Bond. He is known as the ice guru for these outdoor events, and he broke down how they were going to actually construct the ice.
A stage deck is constructed where the ice will be placed. Plywood is placed on top of the deck for reinforcement. 30-foot by 30-inch aluminum ice pans are placed on top of the plywood where the refrigerant goes.
With cooling pipes that connect to the "ice truck" which is equipped with two huge compressors with a combined 300-ton capacity, they make sure the pressure and all of the connections are good before they start creating the ice.
The crew will work nights manually using an eight-foot wide spray bar. The water freezes on contact with the surface.
"The one crew when we were in Michigan clocked themselves, and they were 10.3 miles in one shift," Craig recounted. "So that's all that they're doing. Just walking. It will freeze as fast as it falls. You just keep on walking. That's how you build it."
The crew will initially lay down an inch of ice. They will paint the ice white, lay down another quarter inch of ice, paint the logos and lines and finish with another half-inch of ice.
The crew will begin work on Thursday and will take approximately five days to complete. The ice will covered with a reflective insulated tarp during sunlight hours.
"I don't want one player worrying about where his skate is going, how the puck is moving, not one thing," Craig said noting that both teams are fighting for positioning in the Western Conference. "That is my crew's goal. We are perfectionists."
Word is that 3,000 tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com.