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Frozen Ford Field is game-ready

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – On Monday, a group of Red Wings alumni and local media got together to play a hockey game on a football field.

Yes, Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions football team has been transformed into a hockey venue for this week’s Frozen Four.

Besides the camaraderie, there was another purpose for the crowd of skaters — to test the ice that was poured and painted on Friday.

“It’s not the final ice,” said Kurt Kosmowski of the Detroit Local Organizing Committee and Detroit Sports, who is co-hosting the Frozen Four.

Kosnowski said that the ice seemed to break up pretty quickly in Monday’s test run. But no one expected the surface to be perfect, and there was no (real) complaining from the players about the quality of the ice.

Before exploding to score a hat trick in the game, Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson tried jokingly blaming an errant shot on the quality of the ice.

But he quickly retracted that statement, saying, “No, the ice is pretty good … I don’t think the players on the ice will notice anything different. When you’re on the ice, everything still feels the same.”

“It’s awesome, to be the first ones on the ice,” Manon Rheaume said, the only woman to participate in the event. “I know it’s different when it’s your first time, but to be here and be playing at Ford Field, it’s fun.”

This year’s Frozen Four features a new ice system created specifically for the event. Dan Craig, the NHL’s facility operations manager, has been overseeing installation and maintenance of the ice at Ford Field.

Before landing here in Detroit, Craig supervised the ice systems used for several outdoor games, including the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. He also supervised the ice for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The indoor setup at Ford Field is familiar to Craig, and he doesn’t foresee any real problems to occur before the four teams – Wisconsin, Boston College, Miami (Ohio) and Rochester Institute of Technology – begin practicing Wednesday.

“This is a standard set-up for us,” he told CCHA Productions’ Shannon Kantner. “In fact, it’s really good for us. Normally we’re all bundled up in parkas and have hats and mittens on. Here we come in, and probably tomorrow I’ll have a T-shirt on because it’s so nice in here.”

Craig will able to keep the temperature at 60 degrees with 40 percent humidity to keep the ice solid and prevent it from softening.

There’s still plenty of fine-tuning to be done, but the process isn’t complete yet. When it is, he anticipates the players will be satisfied with the product.

“When you’re skating on it, you can imagine you’re in a rink,” Craig said. “And that’s what we want for the players, for them not to worry about … anything other than if they were in their home rink.”

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