PHILADELPHIA -- Preparations for the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, SN1, TVAS2) have been underway for months, but the ice-making process began just six days ago.
Several lucky students from Penn Wynne Elementary School in Philadelphia got to take part in a field trip to the stadium to get an up-close look at the process with an Ice Making 101 lesson by Dan Craig, vice president of facilities operations for the NHL. All students participated in the NHL/NHLPA Future Goals, Hockey Scholar program, an online educational course that uses hockey to explore real-life applications of fundamental STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts.
"If you watch these kids and their eyes and watch their body expression when I see them enjoying this moment ... that just yanks on the heart strings and when you see guys that get paid to play this game come out here and you watch their eyes, and how they light up when they skate on this stuff," Craig said. "That is why we do what we do."
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This will be the 27th regular-season outdoor NHL game. Craig said each brings with it its own set of unique challenges, depending on the location and stadium type (baseball or football).
Video: 2019 Stadium Series time-lapse in Philadelphia, PA
"The biggest factor between baseball and football stadiums is the leveling of the field. Now that we've done it a number of times, we know that we are level," Craig said. "In this particular venue, we are really still trying to figure out the wind that comes through here compared to yesterday; you come in here today and there's not much, so that's really what I concentrate on. The weather within the parameter of here, where the wind comes and goes from. Whenever we put this type of (ice) system together, the wind does affect one end of the rink compared to the other end, so we have to make sure we're on top of all of that."
The students got to be up close on the glass of the rink and saw the ice, which was covered by a reflective blanket. Craig explained the process of making the ice and answered questions from the kids.
With rain potentially being in the forecast for Saturday, Craig explained how the crew deals with the weather.
"You just have to learn the environment that you're in," he said. "We've got a great crew, all of our equipment is top of the line and now whatever Mother Nature throws at you, we just make sure everybody is prepared, everybody is rested, everybody is ready to go."
With the Flyers and Penguins scheduled to skate on the rink later Friday, Craig said everything as far as the ice is concerned was on schedule.
"We are ready to go," Craig said. "We could play today. We are ready for practice. We'll uncover (the ice) at 3 o'clock and we'll be ready for practice at 4 o'clock. Put a little water on it and the guys will be ready to skate. It's ready to go."