On March 1st, the eyes of the hockey world will turn to Chicago as the second half of the NHL’s Stadium Series takes place at Soldier Field between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Right in the middle of it will be Nashville’s Ice Manager Steven “Scooter” Fruik, who is already in The Windy City to begin work as a member of the NHL’s “ice guru,” Dan Craig’s crew.
Fruik, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., began playing hockey at the age of nine, about the same time his interest in ice began. Kaine’s Rink, the first place Fruik ever played, was originally a street car bar that had been converted in its later years to house a hockey rink. The rink used natural ice from mid-December to early April and following each game, the young hockey players were tasked with cleaning the ice.
This cleaning consisted of players of all ages pushing around large steel shovels to clear off the snow that would next be shoveled off by the coaches. The ice, beat up after a day’s use, would then be flooded by the city’s water department each night, prepping it for the next day.
The playoffs for Fruik’s hockey team took place at Pullar Stadium, the former summer and training camp home of the Detroit Red Wings. It was here that Fruik saw a Zamboni for the first time. Immediately interested in the process by which the Zamboni would make a brand new sheet of ice, Fruik set out to find a way that he could get a job doing that.
Fruik’s first opportunity to work on an ice crew came in 1996, when he began work as a sports utility attendant at Lake Superior State University. Here, Fruik learned the ropes of driving a Zamboni and maintaining the ice.
After moving to Green Bay, Wis., in 2002, Fruik began working at the Reasch Center, a job that would give him the opportunity to work on the ice crew for the 2005 Frozen Tundra game between Wisconsin and Ohio State at Lambeau Field. To this day, Fruik can say that he is the only person to have ever driven a Zamboni in the home of the Green Bay Packers.
In 2009, Fruik moved to Nashville to become the ice manager at Bridgestone Arena. he During his first five years as ice manager, a position that he says is the “pinnacle of his career,” Fruik has had the opportunity to meet many of the heroes of his youth that have visited Bridgestone Arena, from both hockey and the entertainment world.
“Working here has been one of the best things that could happen to a guy from a small-town way up in northern Michigan,” Fruik said.
As he braves the elements for the Blackhawks and Penguins game on March 1, be sure to check back on nashvillepredators.com as Fruik will send updates about his experiences while working one of the coolest games in the NHL.
Click here to watch a time-lapse video of the Soldier Field Build.
Feb. 24, 2014:
Here's are some photos of "Scooter's" first days on the job at Solider Field:
Feb. 25, 2014:
On Tuesday, Scooter was part of a team that helped paint the rink ice white (seen here rolling the hose into place). The rink ice is currently more than one-inch in thickness. Later today, the lines and logos will go into place, making the ice look more and more like an NHL rink.
Feb. 26, 2014:
Despite temperatures in Chicago that began this morning at one degree and rose only to the low teens, work continued at Soldier Field on Wednesday as normal as the crew, including Scooter, went to work putting in the lines and logos on the ice. As they would in any NHL rink, the team carefully measured the locations of each dot, circle and line. As of late this afternoon, the main logo at center ice was finally put in place. The crew will work to build additional layers of ice atop the logos into the night and during the day tomorrow.
Feb. 28, 2014:
On Friday, both the Blackhawks and the Penguins took to the ice for practice, but not until Scooter had jumped on one of the ice resurfacing machines to put the final touches on Soldier Field’s new rink. The players from both teams were unanimous in their praise of the conditions of the ice.
Scooter's brother, Patrick, in town visiting, saw first-hand the results of the team’s hard work preparing for the Stadium Series.
March 1, 2014:
Scooter and the Stadium Series ice crew had help from the Blackhawks’ Ice Crew in keeping the falling snow off the ice during Saturday night’s game between the Hawks and Pens, a 5-1 Chicago victory. As Scooter returns to Nashville, he’ll see a few similar faces on Bridgestone Arena ice, the Preds take on the Penguins on Tuesday, March 4.