Creating a sheet of NHL ice outdoors provides fans fresh viewing attractions, but it also offers unpleasant logistical and weather-dependent scenarios aplenty. After playing one or two outdoor games per year since its first in 2008, the NHL is expanding its al fresco schedule to six games in five North American stadiums between Jan. 1 and March 2, stretching from the Bronx to Los Angeles. The man responsible for making it all happen is NHL ice guru Dan Craig. The scariest part? Even Craig can't control the weather on game day.
MAKING THE ICE
The NHL rolled out a second mobile rink-refrigeration device in December, a 53-foot-long, 300-ton truck that houses ice-making and monitoring equipment. Ammonia is run though the truck, where it mixes with glycol coolant before being sent though the 243 custom-made aluminum trays under the ice. The mixture is then pumped back through the truck to cool off, and the cycle repeats, insuring a continuous 3,000-gallon flow of coolant. If all goes well, the ice stays a perfect 22°.
As for the ice surface itself: The NHL spends up to 10 days misting 20,000 gallons of tap water—Craig hasn't had to use his portable water-treatment device to improve city water just yet—to create a sheet that's two inches thick. That's nearly a full inch thicker than indoor arenas, to account for the possibility of more melting.
WHERE TO PUT THE RINK
Football fields have crowns and baseball fields can slope. To improve sight lines for spectators, the rink stretches from first to third base on baseball fields and sits dead center in football stadiums. Any slopes get wiped away by building up the rink's subfloor.
MONITORING THE ICE
Sixteen sensors made by Eye on the Ice are embedded into each outdoor surface to collect data, including ice and air temperature, humidity and dew point. The probes transmit the info to computers, and if any of the measurements give cause for alarm, the system can alert crew members by email or text message.
THE L.A. ISSUE
Craig wants game-day weather of 45° and overcast. Rain can puddle up and wash away ice. And warm sun? We know what that does. January nighttime temperatures in L.A. tend to be in the mid-40s, but when the sun comes out they climb into the 70s. So the NHL will lay thermal blankets over the ice during the day to shield it, forcing crews to work the graveyard shift to make the ice. These blankets will get used in other cities too, especially near the boards, where sun glare can really warm ice.
• Jan. 1, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
• Jan. 25, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
• Jan. 26 and 29, Yankee Stadium, New York City
• March 1, Soldier Field, Chicago
• March 2, BC Place, Vancouver, B.C.
THEY SAID IT
"My wife—my wife!—can score more than two buckets on 11 shots, because I know my wife will at least shot-fake one time."
Southern Illinois basketball coach, after a 73--65 loss to Murray State in which his post players were 2 for 11
Games it took the 76ers to set the single-season record for the number of times allowing an opponent to make at least 15 threes. The Nets became the sixth team to do it to Philly when they hit 21 treys in a 130--94 win.
Luxury tax bill the Yankees must pay, the second largest in history. The Bombers have now contributed $252.7 million of the $285.1 million that teams have paid since the tax was instituted 11 years ago.
Game-winning goals for Jaromir Jagr after he found the net in the Devils' 5--2 win over the Senators. That moved him past Gordie Howe for the most in NHL history.
TIMES J.R. SMITH HAS ATTEMPTED AT LEAST 17 THREES IN A GAME SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE 2008--09 SEASON. (THE KNICKS' GUARD WAS 5 FOR 17 IN A 107--101 DOUBLE-OT DEFEAT OF THE BUCKS ON DEC. 18.)
Other NBA players who have taken at least 17 treys in a game during that time period.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY JASON LEE
JOHN S. PETERSON/ICON SMI (HINSON)
CHRIS SZAGOLA/AP (SIXERS)
TETRA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (CHECKBOOK)
ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (JAGR)
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SMITH)