MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Saturday, the ice at the Xcel Energy Center will be ready to go as the Minnesota Wild open their season against the Vegas Golden Knights.
So, how do the crews prepare the ice? Good Question.
In May (or June – depending on how far the Wild make it in the playoffs), crews will heat the floor enough to break up the ice and allow it separate from the concrete floor. They’ll then shovel the slush and ice into a big pit at the side of rink and let it fall down the drain.
“We don’t need to have it in over the summer,” says Travis Larson, ice operations manager at the Xcel Energy Center. Larson says that saves on cooling costs, makes to easier to hold concerts and allows for a fresh coat of ice each year.
The ice is 1-1/4 inch thick above the concrete floor. Just before Labor Day is when Xcel crews spend 48 hours building it up to that height.
They start by cooling the glycol that lives in the 10 miles of piping underneath the concrete floor. Then, they use a floodcart to spray a light mist of water – just enough to make a thin coast of ice that can stick to the floor.
After that, crews mix in a white powder with the water to “paint” the ice white.
“We’ll seal that down with water and keep it trapped,” Larson said.
After that, Larson and his team lay out the lines and Wild logo into the ice before hand-painting it with a tempura paint, similar to finger paint. That dries quickly and then the crew will mist on more water until it’s built up to an inch and a quarter. It takes about 13,000 gallons of water to cover the rink.
Any temporary logos, like the NHL faceoff logo used in the first two weeks of the season, isn’t painted in, but rather a printed mesh that’s frozen into the ice.
During the games, the temperature at the Xcel Energy Center is usually set to 60 degrees. During the game, they’ll drop it down to 55 degrees because they know 18,000 inside the arena will warm it 7 degrees. That chilly indoor temperature is partly for fan comfort, but also to keep the ice cool.
During concerts, crews cover the ice with an insulated floor. Anything, like beer or popcorn, that’s able to fall through the cracks onto the ice is shaved out or burned with some hot water.
“We’ve got it easier than a backyard rink,” Larson said.
Over the past two seasons, the Minnesota Wild have asked fans to contribute water from their favorite hockey ponds, lakes and rinks with the goal of collecting water from all 10,000-plus lakes in Minnesota. That water is then filtered and used in ice-resurfacing at every home game.