PHILADELPHIA -- The ice crew for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic reached into their bag of tricks Wednesday morning and pulled out a good one that had people standing around the boards wondering just what they were doing.
With NHL Facilities Operations Supervisor Don Moffatt looking on and helping out, the crew pulled out long sheets of white mesh and started freezing them into what they know are the weakest areas of the ice as a reinforcing agent.
Moffatt called the tactic "making steel ice," and said the mesh becomes so strong when it gets frozen into the ice that you need a circular saw to take it out. He said they used the tactic in Calgary last season for the Heritage Classic as well as in Boston for the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
They ran a piece 20 feet long by 5 feet wide the long way from the Zamboni doors out well beyond the holes for the goal moorings and then laid in a piece 30 feet long by eight feet wide along the goal line at the opposite end of the rink. Moffatt said reinforcing those two areas is important because they are where the Zamboni comes onto the ice and where it makes a lot of its turns.
They sprayed water over top the mesh in each area and used squeegees to spread it out and make sure the mesh was as straight and flat as it could be.
Moffatt said they may also use the mesh in front of the benches, because that's another high-traffic area. The mesh is not used in indoor NHL rinks because the ice is built on a cement floor. But for the outdoor rinks the NHL uses, the 30-foot wide aluminum panels that serve as the base are not as rigid and can bow slightly under the weight of the Zamboni in certain areas.