Creativity went a long way in solving rink-build issue
PHILADELPHIA -- Each of the venues that have held an outdoor game -- Winter Classic or Heritage Classic -- has supplied its share of unique obstacles that had to be overcome.
Citizens Bank Park, home of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, is no different.
NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig has been able to conquer all those previous obstacles, some of which he had seen variations of during his long career. But one aspect of this year's rink build was a new one even for him.
The glycol coolant, which is pumped into the ice trays and provides the base for freezing the water to create the ice surface the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will skate on when the puck is dropped Jan. 2, runs through hoses from the ice truck to the rink being built on the Citizens Bank Park field.
To make that connection, however, the hoses have to run a gauntlet that really has to be seen to be believed.
From the truck parked on the street behind the right-field wall, the hose goes through a 4-foot-by-4-foot window into the stadium -- through an indoor fan speed pitch area -- and follows a track through another 4-by-4 window, up a scaffolding, over the outfield concourse, down another piece of scaffolding that looks like a slide you'd see at a playground, and under the temporary stands erected in center field. Once they hit the field, the hoses then travel under the hockey stick-shaped stage in right-center field and finally to the rink itself.
In all, it's about a 450-foot run, including a change in elevation of about 30 feet.
"This is the longest connection we've had for a National Hockey League game. We're at an extra 200-(foot) push. We also have an elevation change of about 30 feet, compared to in Pittsburgh (for the 2011 Winter Classic), we were at only 12-18 feet. We're almost double." -- Dan Craig
"This is the longest connection we've had for a National Hockey League game," Craig, who said the usual hose run for an outdoor game has been about 250 feet, with minimal changes in elevation, told NHL.com. "We're at an extra 200-(foot) push. We also have an elevation change of about 30 feet, compared to in Pittsburgh (for the 2011 Winter Classic), we were at only 12-18 feet. We're almost double."
Craig said he's used to dealing with unique paths for his hoses -- "Usually we'll cut a hole in a door or replace a door or put a piece of plywood on," he said. This time, though, "It's the most unique one we've done."
In the early stages of plotting out how the rink would look at the ballpark, Craig said he was shown a pair of paths to run his hoses, neither of which was ideal.
"We saw two different locations and tried to find a way to work with the other two locations in bringing our hoses in across the main concourse," Craig said.
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He credited the creative idea of going through the windows and the fan speed-pitch area to a member of the Phillies' staff.
"The idea came from in-house here, from the Phillies themselves," Craig said. "The Phillies themselves said we can probably do this. And I went, 'It works for me if we can do it.' So here we are."
Where they are, though, is with a whole different set of issues to deal with regarding the pumps themselves, which will circulate approximately 1,500 gallons of glycol per hour during the ice-making process and all the way through the game.
"It has more to do with how we're going to balance the pressure at the truck," Craig said. "That's what the elevation does. We have to make sure we're not putting too much pressure from the truck down onto the floor, which creates a lot of pressure down on our hoses. We want to keep it at a total balance for the full ride we need."
Craig had his problems solved Thursday, and by Friday morning, the glycol was running, beginning the process of chilling the ice trays to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. With some help from an overcast day Friday, Craig hoped to be able to start spraying water early in the evening Friday or Saturday morning.
And at 10,000 gallons for one inch of ice -- the playing surface eventually will be at least two inches think -- the sprayer will be on for a while.
It's a long, hard process, from planning the rink to creating the paths for the hose, to solving all the other problems that crop up. But when he sees the players on the ice come Jan. 2, he'll know it all will have been worth it.
"It's the challenge of the year," Craig said. "You're outdoors, and whatever Mother Nature gives you, that's what you do. You get up every day and you want a challenge. That's why we do what we do -- we want to bring the game back to our roots We want to take it back outside where we started and we want everyone to enjoy it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK