LOS ANGELES - If you step onto a frozen pond or ice rink this winter you probably won’t think much of it. It seems simple enough -- Water and cold weather, right? But there’s a lot more that goes into creating a premium skating surface for the elite professional hockey players of the NHL.
The National Hockey League has been regularly scheduling outdoor games since January 1st, 2008 when the first Winter Classic was held in Buffalo. Each year it is held in a different city (in either an open-air baseball or football stadium), and no location or weather is the same.
Dan Craig, known as the “Ice Guru”, oversees and monitors every NHL arena’s ice and is in charge of outdoor games such as the Centennial Classic in Toronto on January 1, 2017 and the annual Winter Classic which takes place this year in St. Louis on January 2nd.
He and his team have built rinks in blizzards, rain, freezing cold and even sunny California -- first in Dodger Stadium in 2014 and again in Santa Clara in 2015 with the NHL’s outdoor Stadium Series.
The science helping Craig and his team is a 53-foot, multi-million dollar mobile refrigeration unit with 300 tons of refrigeration capacity to remove heat from the ice by pumping 3,000 gallons of coolant through pipes under the ice.
The biggest threat to the rink is direct sunlight, and the team covers the ice with reflective, insulated blankets until the sun goes down. The ice team can spend up to ten days misting 20,000 gallons of tap water until it forms a two-inch thick sheet of ice at a perfect 22 degrees Fahrenheit that is monitored by a number built-in sensors. The result? A perfect day for hockey. Watch the video to see the most bizarre and distasteful ice rink yet.