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What does it take to build a hockey rink?

by Stuart Shea
Day 2

Wednesday morning, Dan Craig and his crew arrived at Wrigley Field to find several inches of new snow that had fallen on the plywood panels they had laid down the day before. As a result, the crew spent the morning clearing snow from the panels. They had already shoveled the entire field surface on Tuesday to lay the panels down in the first place. Nobody said this would be simple.

Once they had shoveled the panels, the crew began laying down a thick layer of aluminum  -- which comes in 28 -- foot -- long sheets -- on which the game ice will be manufactured. The game rink will require 240 of these sheets, while the auxiliary rink in left -- center field will require 56.

The aluminum sheets have two uses -- to provide a base for the game ice and to keep the ice cool. The sheeting contains a series of interlocking tubes that distribute coolant under the playing surface to keep the ice at a certain temperature (perhaps 18 F, or  -- 8C). The coolant will flow from outside the park to the ice via a series of tubes emanating from the refrigeration truck that pulled into Wrigleyville, with much fanfare and Blackhawks great Bobby Hull riding in the front passenger seat, on Tuesday afternoon.

Once the aluminum is laid down, and the boards installed (that happens Thursday), Craig's crew will then use 400 feet of hose to spread the water over the aluminum sheets, thus producing the game ice. The crew's one and only water source is an antiquated spigot down the right -- field wall located near the visitor's bullpen. Remember, nobody said this would be simple.

Craig and his crew are working between 12 and 15 hours a day this week at Wrigley Field, and haven't had any time to explore Chicago. "We work at the rink, we go to the motel, and we go to sleep. We eat whatever's local here. There's no downtown stuff. Our guys are on the job site and expected to be here."

Day 1

On Tuesday, Dan Craig and his crew laid down some of the plywood that will support the ice surface. Dan also met the ice-making truck, and planned to spend much of the afternoon getting the truck physically turned around to face west so that it can be connected to a remote power source on Wednesday.

The trailer is actually the ice-making machine itself covered in protective steel panels. Some of the machinery on the ice-maker froze during the ride up from Mobile, Alabama and will have to be defrosted. How was today’s weather for what Craig needed to do? "Perfect. Can’t complain."

Last year, Craig did not shave while he was involved in the process of making the playing surface for the first NHL Winter Classic. This year, to continue the tradition, he stopped shaving a few days ago and is sporting a healthy Don Johnson-type growth.
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