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Ice Age arrives in Newark

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

The center ice logo at Prudential Center.

View gallery of the center ice logo taking shape – Newark's ice age has begun.

Ice technicians were at it all day Friday, flooding and painting the Prudential Center surface in preparation for the Devils' home opener on Oct. 27 against the Ottawa Senators.

When the work is complete, Jet Ice water treatment coordinator Matt Callan says the surface at the Devils new home will be one of the very best.

"This ice will be mint by the time we're done with it," the Toronto native said.

The key, said Callan, is a treatment process that will remove mineral content from the rink's water supply, yielding an ice sheet that can be kept colder and harder. The process includes first heating the water to remove some of the oxygen. Less oxygen means a more durable surface that can stand up to the wear and tear of 41 NHL games.

The Ontario-based Jet Ice supplies 29 NHL teams with ice making and water treatment equipment, and Callan, himself, has worked on a host of surfaces throughout the NHL and the minor leagues.

Early Friday morning, Callan and two assistants used 1,400 gallons of water to form a quarter-inch thick base layer of ice. Once it had set, a layer of white paint was laid down to coat the surface before the addition of any lines or logos.
The trio then used yarn and blue contractor's chalk to mark off the standard rink lines, while stencils were dusted with the chalk to create the outlined shapes of sponsor names.

According to Callan, what once required a full day's work can now be finished in a few hours using modern methods. Though the hours are long (the group's first shift would last roughly 24 hours), he expected to have both Prudential Center's main rink and practice surface ready to be skated on by Monday morning.

For the sake of efficiency, there's little time to agonize over picture-perfect artwork. The finished product will appear flawless, but the attention to detail is reserved for the rink's regulation shapes, like its face-off circles, red and blue lines, and goal lines.

Callan used two different brush sizes to fill in the Devils logo and Prudential Center wordmark at center ice, and laughed at the suggestion that painting rinks required any artistic ability.

"If you've ever used a crayon in a coloring book, you can do this," he said. "It's just about keeping it inside the lines."

Callan explained that when you factor in the inch and a quarter of ice that will cover the rink's designs – along with the skate marks that inevitably follow – it's far less important to be precise than it is to be fast. Especially when you consider that the paint freezes almost as soon as it touches the ice.

Once the paint is finished, and the desired ice thickness achieved, the job of smoothing and leveling the ice is left to the Zamboni. That's when Callan and his group sign off and head out to the next facility needing a paint job or a maintenance call.

Not long after Callan had begun coloring in the Devils logo, members of the construction crew inside the arena bowl pulled out cellphone cameras to snap some mementos of Prudential Center's first ice rink.

"I've waited almost two years to see this," a worker said.

That two-year wait has ticked down to just two weeks. Fourteen days from now, the Devils will be front and center at an arena that's among the best in the nation, on ice that could very well be tops in the entire league.
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