If the start of a new hockey season is referred to as a clean slate or a blank canvas, then Tuesday’s ice install at Bridgestone Arena turned the figurative into the literal.
Beginning before sunrise and with the 200-foot-long, concrete rink space cooled to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, a crew of a dozen Nashville Predators employees began misting layers of white paint on top of a razor-thin layer of foundational ice. The ice installation process, which often takes up to 36 hours, involves repeated mistings of paint, even water dispersion, graphic placement and hand-painted blue lines and goal creases. Creating ice on par with NHL standards and requirements is oftentimes an “art,” according to Predators Vice President of Facility Operations Tim Friedenberger; but despite all the hard work, it’s a day he and his team anxiously anticipate every year.”
“First and foremost, it’s probably the most exciting part of the year for us,” Friedenberger said. “When we put the ice in the building, everybody gets a little more excited about the season. The building starts getting colder, and it’s the kickoff of our new season, so everybody’s really excited about that.”
Once another thin layer of water is frozen on top of the installed graphics and painted lines to “lock them in,” the ice-install team is then able to flood the rink with more water until it’s in position to freeze at the desired thickness of 1.25 inches. Another testament to the precision required in the process, Friedenberger and his team are finally able to call their work done when they’ve hit the proper levels on dew point, humidity and ice thickness.
Click here, or on the picture above, to see a photo gallery of the ice installation process
“We have crews come in and they will work for the next three days doing nothing but walking that hand wand up and down the ice, building the thickness of the ice,” Friedenberger said. “Our finished thickness will be somewhere around an inch and a quarter, and then we’ll bring the Zambonis out, we’ll start grooming the ice and getting it ready for our players.”
Preds season-ticket holders were also invited on Tuesday afternoon to lend a hand in the more artistic portion of the ice install, with a group of the Loyal Legion brushing in goal lines, face-off dots and the like.
For Chuck Shoopman, a Predators season-ticket holder since year No. 2 of the franchise, leaving a small, but lasting mark on the upcoming season, by helping paint a goal crease used by Pekka Rinne, was pretty thrilling.
“It’s extremely exciting to play a part in getting Smashville ready for a new season,” Shoopman said. “To see the ice coming in, it makes me think of all this season will hold for us, including our first [NHL®] All-Star Game, and hopefully we’ll be welcoming the Stanley Cup in here this summer, too.”
Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, the emergence of less than two inches of ice at Bridgestone Arena shouldn’t hold all the significance it does. But for the Nashville Predators and their fans ready to embark on the 2015-16 campaign, the excitement of the first day in September will not soon be forgotten.