L.A. Sunshine Complicates Ice Maintenance for Outdoor NHL Game

By Kristen Rodman, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
January 24, 2014; 2:02 PM ET
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This Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, marks a first for the National Hockey League when the Los Angeles Kings take on the Anaheim Ducks in Los Angeles, Calif., at Dodger Stadium for the first ever outdoor regular season game played in California. Aside from the excitement surrounding the game, the region's weather will pose its own challenges to the rink's construction and maintenance.

After some of the driest months the city has ever seen and a heat wave last week, temperatures on game day will be in the middle to upper 70s. Partly sunny skies combined with warm air may threaten the consistency of the stadium's ice rink.

@AnsonCarterLA tweeted: "No need 4 ice skates for the Outdoor game @ Dodger stadium on @NBCSN because I will be on ROLLERBLADES instead LOL!! Gotta love SoCal #NHL"

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"The sun load will be their biggest nemesis," Co-Owner of North American Rink Builders Rich Palmer said. "Really, the sun is going to be more of an issue than the heat."

During the construction and maintenance of an ice rink, the largest factor at play is the capacity of the rink's chilling system, which keeps the ice cold. The size of the chilling system influences at what air temperature the ice can stay frozen.

The hockey rink is ready as preparations continue on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Los Angeles for the upcoming outdoor NHL hockey game at the Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. (AP Photo/Beth Harris)

"If they have a large enough chilling system, they can keep the ice going into 60- to 70-degree weather," Palmer said.

However, due to the general construction of a rink with the bottom-most layer being closest to the chiller and thus being the most insulated, the sun's rays can still damage the top layer of ice.

"It will be puddly during the day because of the sun, no matter how cold you keep it from the bottom," Palmer said. "The top layer will always be slushy and watery from the sun."

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While there will be some time without sunshine before the puck drops on Saturday, the strength of the sun on game day in Los Angeles will warm the ice to less-than-ideal skating conditions, making it more difficult for ice crews to properly prepare the ice in the short time prior to the game.

"During a game the ice would ideally never want to be more than 28 degrees," Palmer said.

Temperatures significantly higher than 28 F can make the top layer of ice soft and cause it to get chopped up by the players' skates. Choppy ice can make the rink lumpy and potentially cause players to fall and become injured.

According to the NHL, thermal blankets have been placed near the sideboards in order to help minimize the sun's warming effect.

However, the daytime sun can cause the rink's red lines, blue lines and logos to fade, as these paints attract more sunshine than the rest of the rink. The disappearance of these paints would create more work for the crews in the short time after sunset, before the start of the game.

Although the Southern California sunshine may present complications for the ice crews during the day, the sheer size of the rink's chiller at 400 tons will allow the rink to be ready in time for the game.

"As soon as the sun goes down and all they have is their outdoor lights, the ice will freeze up," Palmer said. "If they have the tonnage and chiller to handle that, they can get it down in a couple hours."

The game's 6:30 p.m. PST start time will also aid staff members in preparing the rink, according to Palmer.

"If the sun goes down at 5 p.m. and they are starting at 6:30 p.m., that's probably the most opportune time," Palmer said.

Despite the challenges the sunshine will induce prior to the game, if all goes right, the ice in Dodger Stadium will be in prime condition for the showdown between the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks.

Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kristen Rodman at Kristen.Rodman@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Kristen or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.


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