GLENDALE – Workers installed the playing surface inside soon-to-be-named Gila River Arena on Thursday as the start of the Coyotes 2014-15 season nears. Training camp for rookies begins Sept. 13.
Ice Technician JJ Straker and other arena staffers began the installation process at 5:30 a.m. and finished most of “the heavy lifting” by early evening.
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
The job is challenging in any climate, but the high temperature outside the arena on Thursday neared 105 degrees.
“The air conditioner is working overtime,” Straker said with a smile.
Starting with a cement floor watered/chilled to between 12-15 degrees Fahrenheit, the crew painted the surface white and then sealed it with water. After that process was completed, the crew then painted/sealed the hockey markings on the surface followed by the various team and sponsor logos.
Then came more water. Straker said it takes about 12,000 gallons of water to create one inch of ice – the ideal thickness for an NHL arena.
“Functionality is the No. 1 priority but the look of the ice is close behind,” Straker said. “This is a world stage, especially now with all the TV and video coverage we get. It’s important to us that it looks A-1.”
Straker has been in the ice making/maintaining business for more than a decade. The Alberta native joined the Coyotes last season and his resume includes working at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“I’ve been around hockey all my life and it’s been a passion of mine,” Straker said. “I just enjoy being around the hockey atmosphere, and being on the world’s greatest stage for hockey is a bonus.”