Outdoor hockey played in Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium in January in 80 degree weather? That's impossible and crazy, you say. Crazy like a fox, says the National Hockey League.
Many were surprised when Los Angeles was included in the NHL's Stadium Series, where teams will play additional outdoor games across the country in major baseball stadiums. The first two games come this weekend. The New York Rangers play the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. But because the Los Angeles Kings are a marquee team in the league — they won the Stanley Cup two years ago! — the NHL decided, hey, why not play a game outdoors in the beautiful California sun.
See, the thing that sets the Los Angeles stop on the NHL's Stadium Series tour apart from the others is the weather. Los Angeles is not cold in January the same way New York or Boston are at this time of year. The City of Angels is, in fact, quite warm, which makes playing hockey — with all that ice involved — difficult. On Saturday, the day when the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks square off at Dodger Stadium, complete with a KISS performance and a volleyball court, temperatures will be around a scorching 82 degrees. But the NHL has a plan to ensure players are skating and not swimming when the puck drops.
The game does not start until 7 p.m. local time, which is crucial, the NHL's senior director of facilities operations, Dan Craig, explained to the L.A. Times. (In other words, he's the Ice God.) The rest is preparation:
With the ice covered during the day, Craig and his crew have been working mostly between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., when temperatures fall below the 60-to-64-degree range that's maintained inside NHL arenas. He said the biggest problem he had faced was a few hours' stress over a missing part for a pump on the refrigeration system. The part was "air-freighted" in and the system was assembled without a hitch.
Oh, and also the large truck that runs a cooling system that hopefully will not fail on the weekend:
Pipes from the truck will circulate the coolant glycol at the rate of 1,000 gallons a minute through ice pans set up beneath the ice. The glycol is recirculated through the system in the truck. The goal is to keep the ice temperature at 22 degrees.
Sensors constantly monitor the temperatures of the supply and return pipes. Craig has an "app" on his mobile phone that monitors the system — as well as the air temperature and dew point — and will sound an alarm at the slightest fluctuation. He falls asleep with the phone on his chest, set to vibrate, so it won't wake his wife.
We're hoping for success, but really, this seems about as plausible as building a spaceship in your backyard. Maybe anything is possible.