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Ice surface coming along despite high temps in L.A.

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- It was difficult to ignore the stillness at Dodger Stadium on Saturday evening as Dan Craig sat down in front of what will soon be the Los Angeles Kings bench.

Normally, the baseball cathedral fills with din from thousands of L.A. Dodgers fans cheering behind Nancy Bea Hefley's organ, but the only sounds this night were the water from an eight-foot sprayer on the ice surface.

Craig, the NHL's senior director of facilities operations, called Dodger Stadium an intimate setting for the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series game between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 25.

"This has a great personality," Craig said.

Craig and his crew had just taken off the thermal wraps that keep the surface cool from the Southern California daytime heat and were about to lay down three layers of white base paint and a quarter-inch of seal in the next step of the outdoor rink's installation. The ice markings will be put down Sunday -- with a non-paint product that doesn't bleed -- and the logo will be installed Monday.

Behind the team benches, the NHL logo was painted in white on the grass in what normally is shallow center field. The stage planned for right field had not yet been erected, and the beach volleyball court will also be installed later.

The rink already has an inch of ice that was built at 60 degrees, and Craig's crew was busy running the sprayer up and down the surface so it will eventually be one-and-a-half inches thick.

One of Craig's major concerns was keeping the ice cool near the boards, particularly after temperatures reached the upper 80s in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday, but it's cooled some and Craig said it's no longer an issue.

"If you would have told me six months ago what's gone on in the last few days, I wouldn't have believed you," he said. "We haven't lost anything off the side of the boards."

It was "dipping" into the upper 60s when Craig spoke, one week removed from the first West Coast regular-season outdoor game in NHL history. Craig said this setup isn't that much different from other venues for outdoor games, but he did have two extra days to work with and his crew is not as large as in the past.

If all goes as planned, the rink will be ready for skating as soon as late Monday night, but Craig said they don't want to push the project.

"We're also being very patient because it is as warm as it is here right now," he said. "We want to make sure that everything is done absolutely right, because everything relies on us to be patient and give a good base."

Craig's "day" was just getting started at about 6 p.m. His nocturnal crew will work until about 4 a.m. Sunday and come back again in the late afternoon and early evening.

"When the sun comes up, then I go to sleep," Craig joked.

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