You can’t have a professional hockey game without a Zamboni. Or two. So amid construction, press conferences and other preparations for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (1 PM ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio), Wrigley Field welcomed Thursday afternoon yet another NHL tradition: the between-periods ice-restoring machine.
A flatbed truck carrying two Zamboni trucks pulled up to the ballpark a bit after 1 p.m. CT and deposited the ice-refinishing vehicles into the Wrigley parking lot. Each league-regulation Zamboni sports a logo of an advertiser associated with the Classic (one Cisco, one Honda).
Television and still cameras captured the only hiccup of the day, which came when the second Zamboni, a blue model with Honda insignias, accidentally rolled off the back of the flatbed and fell several feet to the pavement, driver’s side down.
Dan Ahern, who supervises ice operations at Chicago’s United Center, hopped on the truck, pronounced it fit, and drove it off to a temporary storage space. Dan Craig, the NHL’s Facilities Operations Manager, drove the Cisco truck to the same space, which is located about a block and a half northwest of the ballpark. The Zambonis will eventually be housed in a tent next to the “little rink” in the Wrigley outfield. Craig told reporters the reason for the Zamboni's tumble it its brakes locked. Both Zambonis were shipped from other cities and the brake mechanism likely froze.
Zambonis aside, the Wrigley Field ice rink build is going smoothly. Dan Craig’s crew began installing boards for the left side of the rink at 10:30 a.m. By 12:45 this afternoon, about 20 percent of the boards were laid down. The little rink is completely covered with aluminum sheeting in preparation of being flooded, and the big rink is almost fully covered. The large tubes for carrying coolant to the aluminum sheets have been laid down and connected. The whir of portable saws, the buzz of electric drills and the shouts of busy crew members more than compensate for today’s missing piped-in Christmas music.
Today’s cool temperatures, sunny skies and lack of precipitation provide ideal rink-building conditions, but Craig and his crew will likely be challenged by the ice storm expected to blow into town later today.